All data pertaining to a subscribers GSM standard mobile phone number and his original operator is stored in the SIM card attached to a purchase contract. The customer may change a SIM card after buying a new phone according to regulations applicable to CSM standard mobile phones. The user of networks operating under different standards e.g. CDMS, Moscow-based Sonet mobile operator, has to bring his phone to an operators sales office to arrange reprogramming. However, a GSM advantage turns into a problem if a GSM mobile phone is stolen. A SIM card is promptly discarded by a thief whos after peddling the stolen property.

Mobile phones are stolen in Russia at a rate that has been unchanged over the last three years. The figures range from 3.5 to 5 % of all mobile phones sold in the country. The three cities – Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad – have the highest theft rate of 5%. The statistics translate into 800 thousand mobile phones stolen during 2004, a pretty optimistic indicator for Russia. The above data used by courtesy of Eldar Murtazin, an expert with Mobile Research Group.

Technically speaking, any mobile phone number can be blocked and traced thanks to a unique identification code (IMEA) of the device. Some mobile phone companies in Europe successfully sell such services. However, Russian mobile network operators are usually reluctant to locate the whereabouts of a phone and demand a request by the police or security services up-front. Blocking a stolen phone can only give some kind of moral pleasure to its legal owner. The owner has more important business to attend: its in his best interests to block the account and restore the SIM card of the stolen phone.

Block your number if your phone got stolen

A person relieved of his mobile phone due to unfortunate incident should quickly call up his operators customer service number and block his number. As simple as it seems, the procedure involved a personal visit to an operators office just a couple or two years ago. Nowadays it takes a phone call to the customer service to block the number. The operator on the other end will surely ask you for your passport details. Youd better keep them in hand written on a scrap of paper when traveling abroad. Make sure that you the number and the name of an operator you talk to is put down for further reference. The information may come in handy in case of a financial claim settlement due to illegal use of the phone.

You may run up additional charges if youre put on hold while calling from a hotel you stay in. Try and check out the telephone rates for your hotel prior to going on holiday. Perhaps youd be better off by sending a fax. (Dont forget to get an OK slip)

Recovering the SIM card

Getting a fresh SIM card is easy when it comes to technology. Anybody who wishes to do so should contact the nearest MTS sales office. Thats right, a sales office will do for that matter. Actually, the same applies to other operators. The cost of a new SIM card is $5.50 plus VAT for any new tariff, any Jeans payment plan inclusive. The owner of a telephone will have to produce his passport. Youll get a free SIM card if you didnt use the MTS services for one year.

A network operator called Megafon-Moscow will charge you $8 for a new SIM card plus VAT if you use a Light tariff, or 283 roubles and 20 kopeks in case youre signed to a Prosto tariff. Incidentally, you dont have to register when buying a Light tariff but your SIM card will be doomed once its stolen. Anyway, therere stories about some people who managed to get their numbers renewed on the basis of a envelope that used to contain the lost SIM card.

BeeLine, another Russian network operator, will charge you $1 plus VAT for the restoration of your regular phone number. So its cheaper to renew an old number than conclude a new sales contact. You can get your new card in any sales office of the company. You can have a duplicate of your SIM delivered to your place by courier at an extra charge. It will be delivered within 24 hours if you pay $2 and within 5 hours if you throw in $5.

Cloning the SIM card at home

Russian GSM providers are not allowed to manufacture copies of the SIM card for reasons relating to possible abuse. In reality, operators hate to lose profits and spoil reports with regard to new customers signed up. A few copies of the same SIM card can be used in different phones covered by a single family contract. You cant use the whole bunch of the telephones at a time, though. You need to take turns. The second copy of a SIM card can be conveniently used in a pocket computer or a notebook for fast access to the Internet (one has to purchase an extra contract to do that these days). Many makes of modern cars are equipped with an in-built GSM phone. As by the logic of our operators, there should be two different numbers in use for your pocket and car telephones.

Other countries face similar problems too. Despite complicated codes and cryptic techniques, homegrown whiz-kids in many countries have already unraveled the secret of copying the SIM card. One can find the services of that kind advertised on the Russian Internet. The price list looks more or less like that: from $5 to $10 for data copying; from $10 to $12 for a blank SIM card, and a blank can be used for copying up to 10 regular SIM cards, a huge advantage. Its also suitable for switching operators instead of using two or more phones. At $25 one can even purchase a programmator, a device for hacking SIM codes and other classified info if he knows the right people to buy from.

The following is a quotation from one of the smart users:
Ive got three identical SIM cards. One is my telephone sitting in my pocket, the second is for my notebook, and the third one is in my car. I find it very comfortable this way. All three telephones are turned on at a time. You can use any of them. An incoming phone call comes to the one thats last to register in the network. So far I couldnt use the two of them for making a call at the same time, you start talking using the first one and the other one reports failure within the same cell. I havent tried them in the different cells, maybe they can work alright.

The risks of copying SIM cards

Those who manufacture copies of SIM cards may face legal problems, according to Sergei Gorbachev, a lawyer with a Moscow law firm Kniazev and partners. Service providers may sue those who permit the duplication since no sales contract provides for the SIM card cloning. Secondly, a SIM card can be duplicated without the knowledge of the owner thus creating a lot of opportunities for a perpetrator to spoil the life of a legal owner of the telephone. Gorbachev cited a situation involving the sale of illegal copies of a NTV+ card (cable TV). The title holder sought legal protection of the product by contacting law enforcement agencies.

.. - NEKTO 2009.

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