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NCC to sanction operators masking foreign calls with local numbers henceforth

Following the expiration of grace period for telecoms operators to reconfigure their systems so as to end masking international calls as local on Friday, July 28, all is now set for harvest of sanction should any one falls prey.

Before now several telecoms operators play a fast game on each other by way of masking incoming calls to a Nigerian subscriber from abroad and deliver the calls to the subscriber with a local number as if it was a call from within the country only for the receiver to observe on connection that he or she is talking to someone abroad.

Otherwise, a masked call happens when an international calling number (Caller Line Identity) is masked as local number traffic. It is a deliberate attempt by the fraudster to avoid paying the correct International Termination Rate (ITR) for international calls, but to benefit by paying Local Termination Rate (LTR).

The fraud that ignited anger within the circle of operators stemmed from the fact that when the number is masked as a local call, the operator pays N3.90 LTR and not N24.40 ITR.

Another model of the infraction is through a SIM Box which is a setup in which fraudsters install SIM boxes with multiple prepaid SIM cards. The fraudster can bring calls through VOIP (through internet) and terminate international calls through local phone numbers in the respective country to make it appear as a local call, by initiating the call through local SIM installed in the SIM box.

There is also another fraud known as Call Refilling. It is a form of interconnect fraud in which one carrier tampers with CID (caller-ID) data to falsify the number from which a call originated before handing the call off to a competitor.

But all the criminal intents and the crime itself may have rested since Friday following the expiration of the deadline given by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to networks to shape in or be axed accordingly.

In a terse memo to all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) from the regulator, NCC said “following the complaints by different stakeholders in the industry in respect of receiving international calls, which display numbers in the National Numbering Plan (NNP) as the calling numbers, it has been investigating these unwholesome practices and our initial findings show that the menace is currently widespread.”

Continuing, NCC made it clear that “you are, by this letter, given a deadline of Friday July 28, 2017 to ensure no call masking and call refilling activity takes place in your network. The commission explicitly prohibits the practice and as such shall carry out robust compliance monitoring and enforcement actions after the expiration of this deadline. The commission shall fully apply relevant regulatory sanctions on your organisations if found to be in breach post the one week deadline.”

Before now, there had been blames and counter blames between the MNOs and interconnect clearing houses (ICHs), on who is actually committing the fraud, but the NCC’s directive may have handled the crisis as stakeholders awaits the manner or nature of sanctions that will come the way of a defaulter henceforth.