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Tanzania latest country to try fake mobile phone switch-off

Many hands with mobile phonesTanzania is the latest African country to attempt a mass shutdown of counterfeit mobile phones using the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

The country joins a number of others around the world - including Kenya, Uganda and Zambia - which have been taking steps to disconnect phones with fake IMEI numbers from networks. From June 17, any phone bearing a duplicated or fake IMEI will be blocked by mobile phone operators in Tanzania.

Aside from defrauding the treasury and phone manufacturers, the move recognises that consumers face health risks from high levels of hazardous substances such as lead in some black market handsets.  There are also safety issues associated with low-quality components such as batteries that could pose a fire risk or other hazard.

Meanwhile, it has been suggested that users of counterfeit phones are at elevated risk of data and identity theft, and fake handsets are also used by criminals to make it harder for their illicit activities to be traced by enforcement authorities.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) estimates that around 40 per cent of the 35m cell phones used in the country are counterfeit.

In 2014, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) said that counterfeit handsets represent a $6bn drain on the global economy, with predicted sales of around 148m units a year.


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