SINGAPORE - Consumers are now able to buy only up to three prepaid phone SIM cards, a sharp reduction from 10 previously.
A Government central e-registry, which has been in place since 2005, will alert sellers if a potential buyer has already hit the limit of three prepaid phone SIM cards registered in his name. The registry will not allow a fourth SIM card to be registered.
It is a combined quota across the three local mobile operators - SingTel, StarHub and M1.
The new rule comes amid continued use of prepaid phone cards as an anonymous channel of communication for unlicensed moneylending, scams and gambling, among other illicit activities, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said in a statement on Monday.
For example, unlicensed moneylending syndicates still use fraudulently registered prepaid SIM cards to communicate with their members and debtors.
This has continued despite the mandatory registration of buyers of prepaid phone cards since November 2005 to stop terrorists from using the cards anonymously.
Fraudsters have been getting around the rules by selling cards preregistered with the particulars of someone else the buyer does not know.
"This revised limit makes it more onerous for errant dealers to sell prepaid SIM cards that could potentially be used for such illegal activities," according to the statement.
For instance, to buy 30 prepaid SIM cards, the personal particulars of 10 people, compared with just three before, will be needed.
However, people who already have more than three prepaid SIM cards can continue to use them. A prepaid SIM card has to be topped up at least once every six months or the line will be cut off by the local telcos.
Under the current regime, a subscriber must be at least 15 years old to buy a prepaid phone card.
In determining this new limit, MHA and IDA consulted the three telcos.
The majority of prepaid SIM card subscribers today hold three or fewer such cards.
Retired detective Lionel De Souza said the new quota appears to discourage people from selling phone cards in the black market.
"It is targeted primarily at illegal moneylending activities," he said.
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