Government directs telecom giants to halt USSD-based call forwarding on smartphones starting April 15 for security. (Pexels)News 

Major change coming on April 15: Indian government to revamp call forwarding on mobiles to combat frauds

Starting April 15, 2024, smartphone users in India will need to adjust to changes in call forwarding procedures on their Android or iPhone devices. The Department of Telecom (DoT) is cracking down on fraud and online crimes committed through mobile phones, leading telecom companies to discontinue the use of USSD codes like *401# for activating call-forwarding functions. This directive will remain in place until further notice.

Key Points of DoT Prohibition Order

According to an order dated March 28, DoT has observed that USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) based call forwarding, specifically *401# for unconditional call forwarding, is being misused for unwanted activities.

The order specifies: “In this regard, the competent authority has decided that all licensees must stop the current USSD-based call forwarding services from April 15, 2024 until further notice. All current subscribers who have activated the USSD based call forwarding service may be asked to reactivate the call forwarding services using alternative methods to ensure that such services are not activated without their notification.

What exactly is USSD-based call forwarding and how is it used?

USSD codes are short codes that mobile users enter on their devices to access various services, such as checking their balance or getting their phone’s IMEI number. Despite their convenience, the DoT has identified vulnerabilities in these codes that can be exploited for fraudulent activities and crimes related to mobile phones.

Effects on phone users

For users who are used to using USSD codes for call forwarding, the change is immediate. After April 15, they will have to reactivate these services through alternative means. It is the task of telecommunications companies to provide these alternative means of managing call forwarding. The reason behind this change is to enhance security measures and prevent unauthorized call forwarding, which could potentially lead to the theft of sensitive information, such as one-time passwords (OTP) used in online shopping.

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