Sim Box Fraud in Zimbabwe

Sim box Fraud or simbox fraud is a growing crime not just in Zimbabwe but around the globe mainly because of the potential gains. The fraudsters seem to target Africa more than any other region perhaps because the African continent is the second fasted developing after China and often using older technology.

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Sim (Subscriber Identification Modules) Box Fraud, also known as interconnect bypass fraud, in simple terms is where criminals partner with other fraudsters in different countries and route international calls through the internet using VoIP and then terminate those calls to the receiver in Zimbabwe using a local Zim phone number so that the call appears as though it’s being made by someone within Zimbabwe.

Most people that support this criminal activity are actually ignorant/unaware of the criminal activity that costs network operators hundreds of millions of dollars and costs the government of Zimbabwe like others in lost tax collections as the fraudsters evade the surtax charged on international calls keeping it for their pockets. Before you sing praises to them “shafting” the tax man, know that this costs you greatly as it denies you and the community much-needed development.


How does Sim Box Fraud Work?

The best way to explain this without making it more complex than it already is maybe to show you how international calls work… When someone, say your aunt in the UK, calls you in Zimbabwe… her call goes from her cellphone to her provider’s cell tower then to her provider’s switch that determines that your number is not from the same provider and you are not in the same country and so connects her to through an international carrier legal route to your network provider’s switch that then locates you and sends the call to the nearest tower to you and ultimately your phone rings and you speak with your aunt.

Your cellphone company in Zimbabwe charges your aunt’s company for using their network to complete the call and as you already can appreciate, the fees on these international calls are fairly higher and the tax surcharge is much higher than that levied on local calls.

Enter the Fraudsters: Disguised as saints, they approach your aunt’s network provider and say for example your carrier charges 15 cents per minute, they offer them the same deal for 10cents per minute; huge savings for your aunt’s telecom. When your aunt’s telecom agrees, the fraudsters route your aunt’s call through their VoIP gateway that takes her call through the internet into Zimbabwe bypassing the international carrier route. Once her call is in Zimbabwe their Simbox comes into play by using local pre-purchased sim cards from your carrier to connect the call to your number. See how the fraudsters fool the local Zimbabwean telecoms companies into thinking the calls where between clients from the same networks and so the companies only ever demand the local fees for same network calls as they assume your aunt made a local call and the call you received was from a local sim in Zimbabwe that was issued by the same company.


Wondering How The Fraudsters Make Money?

So in the above explanation let’s assume the fraudster got sim cards that offer a 5c per minute for on-net calls. They receive 10cents from your aunt’s carrier and pay your carrier 5 cents while they keep a whopping 5cents per minute and no investment in real infrastructure like your telecom carrier. Now let’s review the math: If he is making 5cents per minute per day his turnover per sim is 5cents*60mins*24hrs=7200cents per day per sim. Let’s assume the fraudster has 10 sim cards then the total daily take would be 72000cents or $720 per day. That’s about $21600 per month for just routing calls through the simbox!!! That’s a turnover of $259200 per year!!!

Your Zimbabwean carrier will celebrate this customer that will have a monthly bill of $21600 and pays on time!!! The truth though is that your carrier will be lo6sing 10cents per minute or $43200 per month or $518400 annually!!! If all the traffic was channeled through their switch they would have been receiving $129600 per month or $1,555,200 per year!!! Now you understand why this fraud is growing? Not all that glitters is gold – you see why you may have received an sms message from your carrier about simbox fraud and perhaps a plea to report it; they are catching on.

Millions of dollars are lost by local cellphone companies and that means although their network is being used, they are not being properly compensated for it. And the government is not collecting the foreign currency it should be getting from your aunt’s provider’s fees to your cellphone provider.

Hopefully you now understand simbox fraud a little. It’s a little more complex but I have tried my best to simplify it for purposes of this illustration.

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