ID For Mobiles & SIMS


Clearly ACMA is demonstrating, as usual, on one of their web pages, that they are clueless.

I have acquired my last five phones and 4G data devices without any requirement to show or have recorded any photo ID.
Likewise the SIMs and activating the service.

My current Optus prepaid phone service doesn’t even have my real name recorded. All they know is my phone number, obviously, an address I haven’t lived at for years, and an email address. The name they know me by would not match any official document like a passport or drivers licence.


We are digressing from “National Identity Card” but … the regulatory basis is:

and that says that it is relying on the Attorney-General’s “telcos are my bitch” power i.e. s313 of the Telecommunications Act.

So I don’t think ACMA is wrong but that doesn’t invalidate anyone’s claim to be using an anonymous mobile phone (but if it were me, I probably wouldn’t be advertising the fact).


I am sure many people, such as myself, go by part of their full name in life and use that normally. My middle name has always been used as my first name.

But official documents like passports need to match what is on your birth certificate.

BTW. A close look at the laws (section 4.3) will show that all that is required to activate a prepaid phone service is your name, date of birth, and an address.
If you supply a credit/debit card to put money into your account, which would be typical, then there is no requirement for sighting or recording any other identity documents. (Section 4.4)


Yeah, OK. If you accept the credit/debit card ‘exemption’ to short-cut the process then that opens up a bigger can of worms because you then need to examine precisely what tortuous conditions are applied to that. The government is probably saying that the financial system is under such heavy surveillance that if you pay by card then you can forget about anonymity or alternative identity anyway.

The bottom line is probably that saying categorically that you have to present photo Id is a simplification but in my opinion it does not significantly mislead anyone about the intention of the law viz. the telco must be satisfied of the true identity of its customer.

And here’s something quirky … the text of that page most assuredly does not say anything of the sort that you have to present photo id. That claim is present in the HTML page metadata, which this forum has dredged up in order to display it. Maybe the only cluelessness here is that ACMA has not maintained the HTML page metadata i.e. not kept it up to date and consistent with the text of the page.

The page also, somewhat ambiguously, makes the observation that if you are an existing customer, the verification can come from that, which makes sense. You really only need to be identified when you become a customer initially, not when you add a service as an existing customer.


The intent of the law is that if you want to activate a mobile phone service using anonymous cash, then some form of ID will be needed to verify the name, dob, and address you have provided.

A transaction using some form of card to activate the service will suffice since the card issuer will have already done the user verification, and the transaction will be recorded, if authorities come asking about who is the owner of a particular phone number.

Of course, the card used may belong to someone else, but in these days of pinless Paywave, the law doesn’t seem to consider that.


Knowingly, or unknowingly?

If the latter it’s likely going to become flagged as fraudulent at some time in the near future. After which the sim obtained is likely to stop working.

My experiences first hand with Optus and Telstra in store over the past few years suggest it is more involved. Even setting out to make a very simple transaction to upgrade a device and the account they’ve asked for my Drivers License and taken it to photo copy. Perhaps I’m different in some way? :roll_eyes:

I suspect there are still ways to attempt to circumvent the system, and a degree of laziness by some points of sale. This invites a new question. The call for better or alternate ways of proving identity are meaningless if those at the front end of each transaction are not doing enough to be sure. Are sales staff on performance assessments or commissions, and if so should they be prohibited?

It seems pointless to burden those who are forthright with any solution if the ability to assume a false or unreliable identity are not resolved at the same time.


To activate a Australian prepaid SIM, ID must be provided in forms required by law…

For post paid mobile phones (or any other form of communication), when setting up an account, the Telco must also verify identity in accordance with legislative requirements.

It isn’t legally possible to create an ‘anonymous’ or burner mobile phone in Australia. Some of the telcos have had enforceable action against them when ACMA identifed that their systems failed to collect required identification causing a small number of burner phones to be release. If one tries to bypass the laws, they may find the law knocking on their door.

Possibly the only way to get a burner phone is from a country overseas where burners aren’t outlawed, set the phone to international roaming and then import it into Australia. It would be a very expensive way to try and circumvent Australian laws.


That link was already posted a few posts above, and note that the HTML metadata on that page is wrong or at least confusing. There is relevant discussion above.

It’s not so much the phone as the SIM. And, yes, this is exactly what organised crime does. Even though it is an expensive way of operating a phone, the proceeds of crime are sufficient to cause it to make economic sense i.e. to pay the extortionate charges for global roaming.


That has been exactly my experience every time I went in to upgrade a device. Just recently, even though the same sim was transferred to my new IPad my DL was asked and taken to be copied and of course stored.


Cheers. The determination is very clear in the category A and B documents required for sim activation. See section 1.8. It isn’t just providing relevant information (name, DoB etc) but documents to validate the information.

It is also likely that if one is adding a new sim to a previously established account, that identification checks aren’t done. While possible, I would be surprised if such a process doesn’t trigger an updated check as the account could have been established before the current requirements came into place.


More than just “likely”. See Schedule 1, items 2 and 6 and 7 in the linked Determination for the exact requirements.

The ACMA page simplifies that down to:

They may also verify by: using an existing post-paid or prepaid account

This is all commonsense (perhaps surprising from the government but …). It is the customer record that associates directly with you and must be identified (as distinct from the account record or the service record). There are surveillance requirements relating to those other records but they go beyond the core of what we are discussing here viz. how and when you identify yourself.

If you walk into the store of a telco that you have no existing relationship with then you are creating all three of customer, account and service - and surveillance requirements go to the max.


I just query your statement ‘that we are required to trust a Telco with 100 points of detailed, private, personal information…’ – I’ve got a phone, prepaid and have provided NO info about myself whatsoever!! I prefer it that way…

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The big risk with unverified ID is that fraudsters can activate a Sim using your personal information for criminal purposes.


If you genuinely knew that you could walk into a telco shop and get an activated SIM without having ID verified then there is no need to impersonate someone. You could just use completely fictitious ID. In some respects that would be superior.

Doesn’t that somewhat depend on what other compromised details one may have for the ID being duplicated, and the intended outcome.

It’s a hypothetical anyway.

I assumed the intended outcome was to have a mobile phone service that is not traceable to the actual user of the service - at least, not traceable via the customer identification that the telco holds. There are numerous other points of government surveillance.