Masking mobile phone numbers may not be easy now.
Faced with several instances of harassment by callers using non-reflecting numbers, the police have issued an advisory to all service providers to regulate the privilege of masking subscribers’ mobile phone numbers.
The mobile phone number masking facility is generally provided to dignitaries and VVIPs who face security risk.
As per the advisory, anyone seeking to mask his mobile phone number must obtain a recommendation from the additional commissioner of police (equivalent of a deputy inspector general rank) in the region where the applicant lives.
The additional commissioner of police then has to mention the assessment of security threat to the applicant while making the recommendation.
The advisory, issued from the commissioner of police’s office in December 2010, is being promulgated through the crime branch to the service providers.
ACP (crime) Deven Bharti said the advisory had been issued in the larger interest of public safety. “The commissioner’s office has issued the advisory expecting co-operation from the service providers,” he added.
Almost all service providers extend the facility against the payment of a fixed monthly rental. However, of late, an unethical practice has begun.
Though legally police cannot issue a recommendation (for masking the number), they can brief the service provider on the security threat to an individual, if they were approached.
But subscribers would obtain a vague recommendation (no-objection certificate on conduct) from a lower rung police officer — in some cases even constables — while applying the facility.
“Service providers had little to lose in extending the facility as long as they were paid their monthly rental,” said a crime branch official.
However, the privilege became a status symbol and many started abusing it. “Small-time builders and businessmen, and in some instances even rich brats, misused the privilege either to settle scores with business rivals, harass women and even make ransom demands," added the officer. It has been observed that those who genuinely faced threats hardly used the “unknown” numbers because the masked number appears on the receiver’s mobile phone.