Black market, phone theft and tampering are rampant in India and this has brought the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number into focus. Now cellphone manufacturers must register with the government the 15-digit number that is unique to each cellphone. Even IMEI numbers of imported phones need to be registered.
What is the IMEI number?
The IMEI number is used to identify a mobile device on the network – each phone has a different number. This can be done when a user makes a call or uses the internet.
This number reveals where the handset is made and its model number. It also shows the location of the phone.
The number helps identify the manufacturer of the phone and find out if it was ever stolen. A stolen or lost device can be tracked using this number even if the SIM card has been removed. These numbers can also help blacklist devices, making them inoperable.
Phones with dual SIM cards have two IMEI numbers, one for each SIM card.
What do the new rules say?
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has made it mandatory for all cell phone manufacturers to register the IMEI number of devices manufactured in India. Every mobile phone must be registered with the Indian Counterfeited Device Restriction (ICDR) portal from January 1, 2023.
“The manufacturer must register the International Mobile Device Identity Number of any mobile phone manufactured in India with the Government of India’s Counterfeit Devices Restriction Portal at the Ministry of Telecommunications before the first sale of the mobile phone,” read the government’s notice. The notice is issued pursuant to the Prevention of Device Identification Number Manipulation for Mobile Devices (Amendment) Regulations of 2022.
Similar rules apply to mobile phones imported into India for sale, testing or other purposes. Registration must be done before the phone is introduced into the country. This applies to all imported phones, including Samsung and Apple smartphones.
The ICDR system has been operational since January 28, 2020 and can be accessed free of charge via a web portal for registering and generating IMEI certificates.
Why does the center want a record of IMEI numbers?
The new rules aim to curb rising cases of cell phone cloning and theft. India has a Central Equipment Identity Register that categorizes devices based on IMEI status into three lists — white, gray and black, according to a report in The Indian Express.
The white list includes mobile phones that are allowed to be used, while the black list includes IMEI numbers of devices that have been stolen, lost or blocked from accessing the network. The gray list contains company numbers that are under supervision.
What happens in case of IMEI manipulation?
In 2017, the Union government made IMEI number manipulation in India a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison. “It is unlawful for any person other than the manufacturer to intentionally remove, deface, alter, or alter the unique identification number for mobile devices,” the DoT said in a statement at the time.
“Mobile phone theft and cloning has become a serious problem. Cell phone theft is not only a financial loss, but also a threat to citizens’ personal lives and national security. Counterfeit mobile phones in the market is another problem for DoT. A significant number of counterfeit cellphones with fake IMEI numbers are active on our cellphone networks,” a DoT bureau memorandum said at the time.
Have there been cases of IMEI-related crimes?
In June 2020, Meerut police found more than 13,000 Vivo phones with the same IMEI number. There has been a rampant rise in IMEI related scams selling phones with fake or duplicate numbers.
A phone without an IMEI number is a fake. Therefore, it is important to check this before purchasing a new device.
How to Check IMEI Number?
To check IMEI number, dial *#06# on your phone and it will appear on your screen. The box your phone arrives in also carries the number.
The About Phone tab on the Android phone contains its information. On the iPhone you can find it in the settings under About.
With contributions from agencies
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