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New code of practice to close multi-million Shilling fake, stolen phones loop

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A new code of practice could see an end to a multi-million shilling loophole, run by a well–organized and highly sophisticated syndicate selling fake and stolen mobile phones to unsuspecting Kenyans.

Plans by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) – if executed, could once again see tens of millions of Kenyans with such gadgets locked out of the proposed national database that seeks to protect both mobile network operators (MNOs) and the consumers, in a renewed push by the authority to address counterfeit menace in the telecommunications market.

Read: Feature phones-still-dominate-kenyas-handset-market-in-the-smartphone-age

“In this regard, the Authority is in the process of developing a national database of all devices that will be permitted to use the public communications systems in Kenya,” revealed CA’s Director General Ezra Chiloba during a consumer rights day forum in Kisumu.

That move, according to Chiloba will now see all Kenyan mobile subscribers registered on the proposed national database, and mobile equipment flagged “as counterfeit or stolen will be blocked from accessing the mobile networks.”

Companies that sign up for the planned new code of practice will be expected to work closely with the authority and relevant regulating agencies like the police to check the details of every phone shipped into the country against the national mobile phone register, a database of all phones reported stolen or phony.

If the handset has been reported as stolen or counterfeit, then the companies involved will refuse to buy the phone, and details of the gadget and the entities trying to sell it to them will be passed to police to investigate.

Similar measures were successfully executed in the late 2000s in markets like the UK and the US in the wake of rising cyber-criminal acts where faceless crooks frequently used unregistered mobile phones to commit fraud or similar acts without a trace.

“At the same time, cybercriminals are continuously modifying and perfecting schemes to target individuals and organizations for financial, social, and political gain. We continue to witness an increase in online crimes such as cyber extortion, identity theft, impersonation, and other forms of online abuse,” stated Chiloba.

It is estimated that Kenya loses more than Sh30 billion every year in tax evasion, unlicensed goods, and counterfeit, according to various studies. The country ranks the highest market for counterfeits in East Africa with 40 percent of products sold in the market labeled as either ‘fake’ or ‘counterfeited.’

And mobile phones still remain the most counterfeited goods in the country, accounting for half of those goods and often used as a conduit by sassy fraudsters to commit a felony and even murder.

With the increase in demand for smartphones, and with the constant launch of new products bearing incredible features, a lot of knock-offs and fake phones have flooded the market.

Feature phones commonly referred to as ‘kabambe’ are still the preferred mobile devices among Kenyans, cementing their dominance in the local handset market despite the popularity of cheap smartphones. But both sets of gadgets are predominantly fake or stolen and are regularly used to commit fraud.

Oftentimes these knockoffs are sold as genuine gadgets, and sometimes companies or individuals involved in the trade alter the naming schemes and fascinatingly brand and sell them as new products.

Ordinarily, a mobile device is tested for its quality at the manufacturer’s end. Besides the software, the hardware is also carefully verified to ensure that it meets all the required specifications and that all the hardware components are working as expected.

But fraudsters – with the aim to make quick cash, often bypass these procedures, meaning they can offer sub-standard quality, or even be security risks – accessing your personal information, and sending it to the manufacturers.

This article first appeared on People Daily a

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