Counterfeit Mobile Phones

  1. What are counterfeit mobile handsets?

    Counterfeit or fake phones are copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials. They are usually not tested and certified for safety and are often made from sub-standard components by parties that are not the genuine brand owners. In some instances, the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) of counterfeit phones is either duplicated in many other phones or does not conform to the recognized GSMA structure.  IMEI is a 15-digit number that is unique to each mobile handset.  

  2. How do I know my phone’s IMEI?

    You can identify your handset’s IMEI by simply dialing *#06#. In most phones, the IMEI is usually printed inside the handset below the battery.  As a rule, the IMEI of genuine handsets does not contain repetitive numbers, alphanumerical, decimals, fractions or letters.

  3. What are the tell-tale signs of a counterfeit handset?

    Does it look real? Knowing the colours, features, and size of the handset you wish to buy can help eliminate the chances of purchasing a fake. If the phone comes in a color that was not produced by the manufacturer or has not yet been released, this is a good indicator of a dubious product. The weight of a fake handset also tends to be lighter than the genuine article. Take a close look at the phone to check its features and dimensions. Counterfeit phones may have missing or additional features, or come bigger or smaller than an authentic device.

    Is it a legitimate model? Counterfeiters may attempt to pass off a non-existing model number as an authentic product. Check if the phone model is sold by the official manufacturer. If it does not exist on the manufacturer’s catalogue or website, it is a sure sign that the phone is not genuine.
    Is the price too good to be true? Counterfeit phones may be sold for less – sometimes for a third or half of the retail price. A device sold at heavy discount is unlikely to be the real deal.

    Is there a warranty? All device manufacturers provide a limited warranty that covers the product, accessories, and software. Typically, a mobile phone is covered for one year from date of purchase by the first purchaser of the product. Authorised dealers may also offer an extended warranty. When purchasing your phone, check that you are covered by warranty service.

    How well does it work? You will know in due time whether you have purchased a fake phone. Many counterfeit phones have slower processing speeds, lack features the authentic models possess, or may simply shut down after a few weeks of use. Devices sold at heavy discount may be built on cheap chipsets or run on pirated operating systems.

    How is it packaged? If the device packaging doesn’t match the brand name and model of the device inside the pack, this is a clear indication that it may not be genuine. Similarly, if the phone’s brand name is either a sticker or has a bumpy feel to it, give it a wide berth.  In some instances, counterfeit phones only have a model number but no brand name.

  4. How can I confirm whether my handset is genuine?

    The equipment manufacturers, in conjunction with CCK, have set up an intelligent database which mobile subscribers can use to verify the status of their handsets through SMS. The database can also be used to verify whether handsets are genuine or not at the point of purchase.   The procedures for real-time confirmation of the status of mobile handsets are as follows:

    • Dial *#06# to establish your handset’s IMEI. Copy the 15-digit number displayed on your screen.
    • Type the 15-digit number (IMEI) and submit it via SMS to 1555. (The first three enquiries are free of charge, after which the normal rates for SMS shall apply. Users are discouraged from making nuisance enquiries once verification of status is completed).
    • If the IMEI is found in the GSMA database, the subscriber will receive the following message: ‘Dear Customer, the IMEI you submitted is for brand name/model number, manufacturer if your handset is different  it may not be genuine.If the format of the IMEI is found faulty or not available in the GSMA database, the subscriberwill receive the following message:

    ‘Dear Customer, the IMEI you submitted is not registered on the GSMA database, please consult your dealer for further assistance’

  5. Why are counterfeit handsets being switched off?

    As indicated in 1 above, *counterfeit handsets are not tested and certified for safety. They may, therefore, pose health risks to users as they may emit higher levels of radiation than is recommended. *Though usually cheaper than genuine products, counterfeit handsets are of poor quality and have a very short lifespan. *In some instances, counterfeit handsets come with duplicated IMEI, which makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track down criminals who use mobile handsets to commit crimes. In addition, *counterfeit handsets are usually sneaked into the country through dubious means, thus denying government of the much-needed revenue. *They also negatively affect the quality of service provided by mobile service providers e.g. high incidence of dropped calls  largely due to their inability to connect seamlessly to the mobile networks. In short, counterfeit handsets are bad for users and the country.

  6. What is the deadline for the switch off of counterfeit handsets?

    The deadline for the switch-off of counterfeit handsets is on 30th September 2012. All subscribers are, therefore, required to confirm whether their handsets are genuine, and if necessary replace their mobile phones in good time to avoid disconnection.

  7. How to go about buying a genuine mobile phone?

    When buying a mobile phone, consumers are advised to

    1. Identify the features of mobile phone that you would like.
    2. Research and shop around for the mobile phone(s) that interests you. Keep in mind the desired manufacturer, model, features, appearance, color, software, availability of manufacturer’s warranty, availability of the phone in the market and price. This information can be obtained from the manufactures website.
    3. Determine if the phone has been type approved by the Communications Commission of Kenya  (
    4. Purchase mobile phone from a licensed vendor. Insist on seeing the CCK registration certificate of the vendor.
    5.  Check to see if the phone is genuine by sending the phone’s IMEI to 1555 via SMS

     More information on buying a mobile phone may be obtained from


PPSX How To Check If Your Handset is Genuine (PPSX: 145KB)