The government has banned  the import of mobile phones with duplicate or fake unique identity numbers in a bid to help security agencies in tracking callers using different SIM cards. The director general of foreign trade in a notification (PDF) said GSM handsets with duplicate or fake IMEI and CDMA handsets with fake or duplicate ESN/MEID are added to the list of prohibited items for import.

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An IMEI number is a unique id which comprises of a 15-digit code assigned to a handset and it appears on an operator’s network whenever a call is made. The equivalent for CDMA handsets is the ESN or MEID number. While there is  already an order in place which bans import of mobile phones with fake IMEI numbers, the new order places bans on duplicate handsets as well. Government had banned services on mobile handsets with fake and invalid IMEI numbers after November 30, 2009. Generally, the grey market in India thrives on cloning the IMEI numbers of genuine handsets.

“We welcome any crackdown in fake IMEI or grey market. The implementation of this notification on ground will have to be handled with great care so that ease of business is not hampered while curbing grey market,” Indian Cellular Association National President Pankaj Mohindroo told PTI.

However, it is worth noting that the government had earlier in 2009 decided to fix 25 million handsets with no IMEI numbers by issuing fresh ones obtained from the industry body GSMA.

It is also worth noting that stolen handsets can be hacked and the IMEI numbers can be changed with online generators. It remains to be seen how the government can track these handsets.

Need an IMEI?

Here’s how you can check – dial *#06# on your handset to get your 15-digit IMEI. If they are all zeros or nothing appears, register for an IMEI. Users of grey market  handsets will have to register for an IMEI at the 1600 centres being set up by the government.