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Sharmaine Dhawnarain blacklisted her BlackBerry after hijackers took it, along with her car and other valuables, from her at gunpoint last month.
By doing so, she believed it would be listed as stolen and disabled electronically – so becoming useless to the hijacker or anyone it was sold to. But more than a week later the hijacker was still merrily using the supposedly blacklisted BlackBerry.
Dhawnarain, an MTN subscriber, made the shocking discovery 11 days after she was hijacked in front of her two daughters in her Durban driveway.
Then a friend of one of her daughters sent a BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) invitation to Dhawnarain, mistakenly using the PIN for the BlackBerry taken in the hijacking.
“Imagine her surprise when she received a reply from my hijacker, who is still using my blacklisted cellphone!
“He even sent his profile picture. I was quite shocked to see it – he’s definitely one of the two hijackers me,” Dhawnarain said.
So either he’s not too bright, or incredibly brazen.
Incidentally, Dhawnarain’s car and handbag were recovered by her tracking company – only her BlackBerry was still missing.
So how is that hijacker able to keep using a blacklisted handset?
“I have queried this with MTN and was advised that blacklisted cellphones are still operable,” she said. “But they tell me they can’t trace it. Imagine that.”
Dhawnarain has reported the information to the police, who will no doubt have more luck in getting that information from the network, should they be inclined.
Responding, MTN’s customer service executive, Eddie Moyce, said Dhawnarain’s phone was indeed blacklisted on its network, and the Equipment Identity Register (EIR), which is facilitated by Transunion ITC.
“Effectively, this prevents the device from being used on any of the other networks,” he said. “But the blacklisting of devices, for network usage, is limited to those countries that have an EIR database, and who have subscribed to the Centralised Equipment Identity Register (CEIR).”
If the Blackberry had been taken into one of SA’s neighbouring states, the blacklisting would not be effective, he said, because current legislation only applies within our borders.
Another possibility was that criminals had changed the phone’s IMEI number, he said.
“This means the same device reflects a new IMEI number on the network, which prevents the network from realising that the device is one which is blacklisted,” Moyce said.
Such tampering was illegal, according to RICA legislation, he said, but can’t be prevented because the phone’s IMEI is not hard coded into it.
So, whether Dhawnarain’s Blackberry has had its IMEI number changed, or is being used outside SA, its BBM pin can still be used, making it possible for the hijacker to use her Blackberry messaging profile.
Moyce said the phone is not in use on any of the “home” networks.