A video of a man discussing a SIM card scam has been causing quite a stir on social media. He can be heard saying in the video, “10,000 SIM cards have been found, all registered under the same person. When the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) and National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids in Jharkhand, 10,000 SIMs were found with a man named Javed. All these SIM cards were from the same company…This could possibly be linked to the Jihadi movement. The ATS is currently investigating this matter…”

The video is widespread on Facebook and Alt News has also received verification requests on its WhatsApp helpline number (+91 76000 11160) and mobile application.

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Video circulating since last year

Several Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp users had shared the video alluding toward a ‘Jihadist’ conspiracy last year as well.

Fact-check

We performed a keyword search on Google and came across a fact-check report by The Times of India from October 2018. It stated that this viral claim had spread across social media three years ago as well. Many Twitter users were claiming that Javed, who used these 10,000 SIM cards to allegedly create fake Facebook profiles of Brahmins and campaign for NOTA, was arrested in Ranchi. It also mentioned that the publication had earlier covered an ATS operation in Jharkhand “busting a SIM-card racket of cyber-criminals during a raid carried out at a flat in Hasiba Enclave of Kanta Toli and a house in Kanke, in Ranchi.” A total of over 7,000 SIM cards and SIM boxes were recovered from two homes in Ranchi’s Kanke and Kanta Toli. Three people were arrested in the case. Initial reports said that all the SIM cards were registered to one Javed Ahmad from Dubai. However, The Times of India, citing a report by The Telegraph, stated that the statements issued by police and the concerned ATS officer revealed that the SIM cards were in fact not registered to any person but to a company.

The Telegraph had reported on October 24 that a man had purchased 10,000 SIM cards but in a follow-up report published the next day, the daily clarified that the SIM cards were actually issued in the name of a company and not a person. The article states, “Jharkhand police anti-terrorist squad (ATS) on Thursday clarified that 10,000 SIMs were issued to the company, One Excel, and not Javed himself.” The report further states, “Superintendent of Police P Murugan, who led this investigation, stated that One Excel Company is registered under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The sim cards were issued under the Airtel Corporate User Plan.” It is noteworthy that under a rule by TRAI, companies can buy SIM cards in bulk at once, while individuals are only allowed to purchase up to nine SIM cards using one identity card.

Alt News reached out to Anjani Anjan, SP of the Jharkhand ATS. “It was a registered promotions company. They had an agreement with several companies. Their documents were also verified. There is no ‘jihad’ angle to this. This firm sends bulk promotional messages for ordinary companies like Pantaloons. So, whoever had one of these SIM cards used them for these promotional activities. We did not find any criminal angle here, hence no case was registered,” he explained.

Misleading and incomplete information

When we performed a keyword search on YouTube, we found the original video which was uploaded by Nitin Shukla, a verified account, on October 29, 2018. The viral video was, in fact, cropped from these visuals.

This video shows a screenshot of a news report at the 1:07 mark. This is from the first Telegraph article which stated that the SIM cards were registered to a person. However, this YouTuber did not include the updated report that was published the following day. Similarly, the screenshot with the bullet points appearing at the 1:58 mark is also part of the aforementioned article. We also discovered that the clip shown at 2:49 was taken from a report in The New Indian Express. This had been published on October 25, 2018, at 12 noon. The Telegraph report was published at 6.38 PM, i.e after the police released their statement.

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It is clear that the YouTuber made this video after the initial Telegraph piece. However, he did not include any information about the update regarding the SIM cards being legally issued to One Excel under TRAI regulations.

To sum it up, a two-year-old incident of an alleged SIM card racket is being shared with erroneous claims. In reality, the cards were legally purchased in bulk by a company to use for promotional purposes.

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About the Author

A journalist and a dilettante person who always strives to learn new skills and meeting new people. Either sketching or working.