Meerut Police has confirmed that the 13,500 phones it found running on the same International Mobile Equipment Number (IMEI) number, reported earlier today, were made by Chinese smartphone maker Vivo. The company is amongst the top five smartphone sellers in the country and the police has registered a case against the company.
Akhilesh N. Singh, Additional Superintendent of Police (City), Meerut, confirmed to Mint that the phones were made by Vivo and said cases have been registered under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He also said that the sections under which the case will progress may increase as the investigation continues.
The police conducted a five-month long investigation and found that 13,500 Vivo smartphones ran on the same IMEI number. They first got wind of the case when a sub-inspector noticed that the IMEI number on the box of his phone was different from the one on the device. The inspector had just replaced his phone through a Vivo service center.
IMEI numbers were originally developed in order to keep track of mobile hardware. SIM cards that we use on phones can be swapped from phone to phone, so the IMEI number is attached to the device, and often used to track down phones used in crimes. The IMEI was also responsible, at least in part, for stemming the growth of black market mobile phones long ago.
That said, there have also been reports of criminals using a device called a “flasher" to change the IMEI number of a smartphone. Doing so makes it almost impossible to track with most readily available means. There are also YouTube videos about how a phone’s IMEI number can be changed. Though these videos aren’t verified, some of them have nearly a million views.
We have written to Vivo India for a comment. The story will be updated to reflect the same when we hear from them.