Villagers in danger after giving biometrics to free SIM sellers 


Liton Hawladar, an expatriate Bangladeshi in Italy from Bhedarganj upazila of Shariatpur, got his personal account on messaging app Imo hacked by some unidentified people on 16 January. 

Impersonating Liton, the hackers sent a message to his cousin – Abu Kalam Hawladar, 52 – and requested him to send money urgently. Falling victim to the ruse, Abu Kalam sent a total of Tk 60,000 in two phases.

At one stage, Abu Kalam sensed the fraud and moved to the Bhedarganj police station seeking legal action. Unfortunately, the police declined to register a case. Subsequently, Abu Kalam filed a case with the local court on 24 January.

Senior judicial magistrate Rumana Akter took the complaint into cognizance and ordered the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate the matter. The CID conducted an investigation and analysed the mobile numbers used in the deception. 

The CID found that the numbers are registered in the names of two teachers, a beggar, a farmer, and a poor widow in Chirirbandar upazila of Dinajpur. They have been asked to appear in the Shariatpur CID office.

One of them – Jannatul Ferdaus, 30, teacher of Basudevpur government primary school – told Prothom Alo that she, like some others, had purchased a mobile SIM card in August last year, when three young men came to the locality to sell SIM cards of a particular telecom operator completely free of cost. 

As per basic requirements, the sellers collected fingerprints and national identity numbers from them, and also conducted retina scans. The matter came to light after the local police station noticed her name in swindling money. 

“I received a notice from the police station that a sum of money has been swindled using my SIM. I am frightened as a case has been filed in this regard,” she said. 

Sub-Inspector Mujibur Rahman, the investigating officer of the case, stated that the CID had identified three individuals involved in the fraud. They were mentioned in the investigation report submitted to the office of the Additional Inspector General (CID) in Dhaka in August.

The report will be submitted to the court once it is approved by the high ups, he added. 

How the scam works 

Abu Kalam Hawladar used to take different sums of money in loan from his cousin Liton and vice versa.  They used to have conversations through the Imo app. 

One day, Abu Kalam received a message from Liton with the request to send Tk 30,000 on an emergency basis. In response, he called Liton over the app. The call was rejected, and he received a voice message after a while.  

In the message, Liton was heard saying that he is unable to receive the call due to business. However, the voice message cleared all his doubts and he sent the money to the given mobile financial service (MFS) account. 

But the reality is – Liton did not send either of the text or voice messages. The fraud gang faked the voice through a mobile app. 

On the next day, Liton sought another Tk 30,000 through a similar voice message, citing that the Italian police nabbed him due to visa complications. Abu Kalam sent the money immediately to the given number. 

This time, Abu Kalam called Liton directly on his mobile number and understood the deception. Liton said he had not face any arrest or seek the money.