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Tampering with IMEI number could land you in jail for upto 3 years,also punishable by fine

The government has declared tampering with the IMEI number of a cellular device as an offense punishable by law. According to a PTI report, offenders can be jailed for up .....


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Old 13-10-2017
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Tampering with IMEI number could land you in jail for upto 3 years,also punishable by fine

The government has declared tampering with the IMEI number of a cellular device as an offense punishable by law. According to a PTI report, offenders can be jailed for up to 3 years or be punished with a fine or both. The decision has been taken to facilitate tracking of lost mobile phones and also to minimise the incidences of mobile theft.

Quoting a DoT notification, the report says, “It shall be unlawful, if a person, except the manufacturer - intentionally removes, obliterates, changes, or alters unique Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number. ” According to the new law, anyone knowingly using an IMEI tampered device or any software that can change the IMEI number can be punished by imprisonment of up to 3 years, or fined, or both.

IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and is unique for every cellular device. Similarly, ESN stands for Equipment Serial Number and is unique for every device as well. In case of a theft, Police makes use of IMEI number to track a device. If there is more than one device with the same IMEI number, it hinders the search. When a stolen device’s IMEI number is changed, it can no longer be tracked and a thief can elude authorities.

Whenever a user places a call, their phone number and IMEI are recorded. A user may change their phone number by changing the SIM, however, changing the IMEI number of a device takes some technical knowledge and makes use of special software and methods.

The new rules called "the prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017" bar a person from knowingly using mobile device whose IMEI number has been changed unlawfully or software that can change or tamper the unique number.

IMEI is a unique ID of a mobile handset. Whenever a user makes a call, the call record shows phone number of the caller and IMEI number of the handset from which the call has been made. The mobile number in a handset may be changed by changing SIM but IMEI number can be changed by a technical person using special equipment.

The unique number of mobile devices is allocated by global industry body GSMA and bodies authorised by it. When a mobile phone is lost, people are required to mention the IMEI number of the handset for tracking.



The DoT had started consultation in June to frame strict laws around tampering of IMEI numbers which makes it difficult for police or any other security agency in tracking mobile phones.

The DoT barred telecom operators in 2009 from providing service to any mobile phone with fake IMEI number but the operators face problem in identifying handsets with duplicate IMEI number.

In one of the tracking cases of mobile phone, the Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell of the DoT found that there were around 18,000 handsets using same IMEI number.

The rules have been framed in combination of section 7 and section 25 of the Indian Telegraph Act.

The section 7 gives DoT power to make rules for conduct of telecom or telegraph services and section 25 deals with damaging of telegraph line, machines and related equipment with provision of punishments of up to 3 years of imprisonment or fine or both. @Dhillon


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