Almost two million mobile phone subscribers in Vietnam are at risk of having their services severed, thanks to a new government policy that seeks to curb spam.
As of April 1, the government required personal information listed for mobile phone numbers to match details listed in an official national database. Account holders who don’t hand over their particulars will have their services locked, then terminated.
According to information posted by Vietnam’s government, the move aims to prevent inappropriate use of SIM cards.
Telecom providers sent notifications to remind unregistered users to update their information, and those that did not respond became unable to receive calls for 15 days. Thirty days after that, contracts of those who have not complied will be terminated.
Of 127 million mobile phones in use in Vietnam, 96 percent connect to three mobile operators: Vinaphone, Viettel and MobiFone.
Information posted by the Ministry of Information and Communication states that a large number of mobile subscribers have more than one SIM card or rarely use the SIM cards they have bought. Hence they didn’t receive notifications from the mobile carriers about the information update.
Telecom companies reportedly requested a deadline extension, but were denied. According to government official Pham Duc Long, “Extending the deadline would make phone number owners procrastinate.”
According to Kaspersky’s Securelist, Vietnam is a leader in phishing scams and was the country of origin for 17 percent of those it detected in 2022.
Cyber security firm Group-IB said last summer it discovered large-scale online scams emanating from Vietnam. Those efforts impersonated 27 organizations, including banks, and accrued 7,800 victims, partly by using SMS.
Vietnam is not the only South East Asian country trying to rein in scams by securing a fixed identity to a mobile number. The Philippines government is in the midst of a similar drive to tie actual identity documents to SIM cards. As of mid-March that push had not secured majority compliance.
On March 19, local media reported only 25 percent of the 165 million-plus SIMS needing registration in the Philippines were complaint. The deadline for registration is April 26. ®