SINGAPORE — Noticing a loophole in the registration system for subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, a mobile phone retailer exploited it to unlawfully register close to 300 of these cards using his existing customers’ details without their knowledge or consent.

The retailer, Low Beng Whatt, did this with the details of almost 300 customers, earning some S$1,200 in commission in this manner from the telecommunications companies that issued the SIM cards.

On Monday (April 8), the 65-year-old Singaporean was ordered to pay a S$10,000 fine after pleading guilty to two counts of unauthorised modification of computer materials.

Two charges of obtaining or retaining personal information of other people without their consent were also taken into consideration for sentencing.

The charges he admitted to involved 290 SIM cards.

The court heard that Low was the director and shareholder of Ezylink, a mobile retail store with two branches located at City Plaza in Geylang and Eastlink Mall in Tampines.

His shops sell mobile phones and SIM cards, among other things.

Ezylink was paid a commission of S$3 to S$4 by the respective telcos for every prepaid SIM card that a customer bought and registered through it.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Michelle Tay said: “The prevailing regulations were that each customer was only allowed to have three prepaid SIM cards registered to them, and that they had to be personally present to purchase and register the prepaid SIM cards.” 

However, Low discovered an irregularity in the registration system. After each successful registration, he was able to navigate back to the “previous page” in the system to access a customer’s personal particulars from their identity documents.

“The accused made use of this loophole by clicking to go to the ‘previous page’ and registered additional prepaid SIM cards using the personal identities of his customers, without authorization by the telecommunications company, and also without the customers’ knowledge or consent,” said DPP Tay.

Using the said method, he registered 290 prepaid SIM cards under the names of Ezylink’s customers. 

The court heard on Monday that in June 2021, police officers raided the two Ezylink retail stores, as well as the company’s office and warehouse.

The officers also raided the office of another individual named Xu Bing and found the 290 prepaid SIM cards that Low had registered.

Low had sold these cards to Xu Bing at cost price for the latter to use for his business of providing voice-over internet protocol systems for people to make calls through broadband internet connection. 

Court documents did not state what prompted the raids. TODAY has asked the Attorney-General’s Chambers if any legal action was taken against Xu Bing.

DPP Tay told the court on Monday that Low had released S$1,204 as forfeit to the state, which represents the maximum amount of commissions he could have made with the fradulent acts — across all charges including those taken into consideration for sentencing. 

Low, who appeared in court on Monday without any legal representation and spoke through a Chinese interpreter, pleaded for leniency and for the judge to consider his advanced age and ill health.

In delivering her decision, District Judge Carol Ling noted that “quite a number” of SIM cards were unlawfully registered.

She added that the offence was hard to detect and that “there is an element of integrity involved” since telcos would rely on retailers to ensure proper and legitimate registration.

However, she noted that there was no evidence that the offences were done for “any nefarious purpose” aside from profit, and that Low had voluntarily forfeited the ill-gotten profits he made.

For each count of unauthorised modification of computer materials, Low could have been sentenced to a fine of up to S$10,000 or a jail term of up to three years, or both.

Anyone convicted of obtaining or retaining another person’s personal information without consent can be fined up to S$10,000 or jailed up to three years, or both.


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