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Why you Should Never Buy a Pre-Registered South African SIM Card

South African law stipulates that every SIM card that is in used on any one of the country’s mobile networks needs to be properly registered. That’s in line with the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act, 2002 (RICA). Registration is meant to ensure that all mobile phone numbers are linked to their users.

That’s particularly important considering how integrated mobile phones have become into most facets of daily life. Your number is one of your digital identities and it can be used and misused in a wide range of ways. The RICA process is designed to ensure traceability. Should your phone be used in an unlawful way, it becomes easy to track you down.

What are the registration requirements?

Every SIM card in South Africa needs to be properly registered. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who disregard this rule. The consequences can be dire.  Across the country, there are people who sell pre-registered SIM cards. That’s particularly the case at the country’s ports of entry.

Foreign people entering South Africa by bus as an example, often get sold pre-registered SIMs by vendors on buses. It can seem simpler to do so. While the process of registering a new SIM may not be that cumbersome, it can still be inconvenient for some.

Many people resort to buying pre-registered SIM cards because they do not have the required documentation or because they don’t have the time to visit an authorized vendor to buy their SIM. When you register a SIM card, you are required to present your ID or a copy. Foreign nationals are required to present copies of their passports.

The registered RICA agent is supposed to capture a lot of useful information as part of the process of registering a new SIM. This information includes your name, surname, physical address and your ID number. That makes it easy for law enforcement authorities to identify perpetrators in case phones are used in crime.

Who are pre-registered SIM cards registered to?

SIM cards are supposed to be registered in the name of the people using them. So, in whose names are pre-registered SIMs registered?

In most instances, vendors register multiple SIM cards in their own names. Or they registered the SIM cards in the names of fictitious people.

In some cases, the vendors use other people’s details to register SIM cards. The result is that the noble idea of registering SIM cards has somewhat been muddied.

One thing that we have noticed is that many people are unwittingly sold pre-registered SIM cards. Most of the stores that are out there sell this type of SIM. When you go there to try and buy a new SIM, they tell you that the ones that they have are already pre-registered.

How is buying a pre-registered SIM bad?

As an individual, one thing that you should never do is to buy a pre-registered SIM card. We have already noted that our phone numbers are intimately linked to our daily lives. Most transactions that we carry out demand our numbers. Your number is part of your identity. Registering it in somebody else’s name opens you up to potential loss.

Let’s use banking as an example. When you open a bank account, you are asked to provide your phone number. The number should be valid and in use. What happens if you register an account using somebody’s number? One possibility is that they will, at some point, be able to claim your account as their own.

Another possibility is that you will not be able to recover your account in the event that you have lost your number. Phone theft is rife in South Africa. Every day, we come across people desperately trying to replace lost SIM cards. That’s simple enough if the number is registered in your name.

However, if the number is registered in somebody else’s name, the process of replacing a lost SIM becomes almost impossible. That’s particularly the case for pre-registered SIMs that are bought at bus terminuses or elsewhere. In most instances, you will not be able to contact the person to whom the SIM is registered.

This is a situation that we have noticed happening multiple times. If you are unable to recover a lost SIM, it means you will not be able to continue using your number for your banking. Today, most banks use One Time Passwords (OTPs), as an additional security measure. When you try to log into your account online or on the app, they sent an OTP to your registered number.

If the number is no longer in use, it means you will no longer have access to your account. It’s one of the reasons why there are so many people out there looking for information on how to change the phone numbers linked to their accounts.

As an example, many people look for information on how to change their phone number on Capfin. Capfin is one of South Africa’s most popular lenders. The reason why so many people are looking to change their numbers is because they have previously used pre-registered SIM cards.

Unfortunately, once you are in this situation, the process of changing your number and recovering access to all your accounts tends to be rather cumbersome. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that you do not link your important banking and other accounts to a number that’s not registered in your name.


In this article, we showed you why you should never buy a pre-registered SIM card in South Africa. It was noted that law requires every SIM in the country to be properly registered. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous dealers out there who sell pre-registered SIM cards.

Why it may seem like a simple thing to buy one, the consequences tend to be dire. In the event that you lose your phone, as an example, you will not be able to do a SIM replacement. In that case, you will be required to get a completely new number, which can be inconvenient.

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