Crime organisations in Bulgaria have found ways to beat the system introduced at the beginning of 2010 requiring users to register pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards, a media report said on April 29 2010.
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry and the Information Regulatory Commission initiated a scheme at the end of 2009 by which customers would no longer be able to use anonymous pre-paid SIM cards.
The scheme was introduced to enable authorities to track perpetrators of serious crimes such as assassinations, kidnapping and drug-dealing.
But, according to a report by television stations bTV, only four months into 2010, and organised crime groups already have found ways of beating the system.
In fact, there are unsuspecting people right now who are completely unaware that their mobile phones, or names and registration, are being used for serious criminal activities, the report said.
Radio host Borislav Borissov found out that he was the "proud owner" of about 200 different SIM cards, all registered to his name and personal social security number.
"It transpired that I own about 200 or more different phone numbers, for the moment I don't actually know the precise number," he told bTV.
He discovered the scam on April 13 this year when he was sent documentation from a mobile phone company that he previously had not done business with, showing that a phone registered in his name had been used to make 1300 leva worth of calls - in just 70 minutes.
Borissov contacted the mobile phone company on April 22 and was told that the cards registered in his name were active and nothing could be done about it.
One possible explanation, according to Borissov, is that the culprits found his ID card when he lost it some years ago. Although he had contacted the authorities to have the identity card cancelled, the perpetrators are well aware that the phone operators and the police do not share the same database.
The operator contacted the television channel and said that the bills would not be forwarded to Borissov as this was a "clear case of fraud".
The Interior Ministry said that they were doing all they could to prevent this kind of case from happening in the future, but have urged all insitutions who operate with personal information to be extra vigilant. People are also encouraged to be extremely careful whenever asked to present their ID cards.
A new provision in the Electronic Communications Act, adopted in late 2009, forced mobile phone companies to register the name, address and EGN – Bulgaria’s equivalent of a social security number – of the owners, who were given about two weeks at the end of the year to comply with the new regulations.
Foreigners who have residence in Bulgaria and own pre-paid SIM cards will have to register their name, permanent address and LNCh (Lichen Nomer na Chuzdenets, or Personal Foreigner Number), those who only visit have to register their name, permanent address and passport number.
Registration of pre-paid SIM cards continued until January 31 2010, after which date all non-registered cards were blocked.