A three-member gang, which allegedly implanted fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers on mobile phones, was apprehended by the Cyber Crime Cell police here on Saturday.

The suspects used a special software to implant the numbers on mobile phones, mostly those made in China and Korea. Preliminary investigation revealed that the gang was operating for “quite sometime,” and there was no data available to assess how many mobile handsets had been tampered with so far, police sources said.

Acting on a specific alert from the intelligence that a gang was implanting fake IMEI numbers in the Ritchie Street area, Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran formed a special team headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Crime Branch) C. Sridhar to investigate.

The team sent decoys posing as customers to a shop where three persons agreed to implant a fake IMEI number on a Korean mobile phone for Rs.175. They used ‘spiderman kit' software installed in a system to access and implant the fake IMEI numbers.

“The mobile phone worked after that…it appears that there is no system available with mobile operators to detect fake IMEI numbers,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police M. Sudhakar said.

M. Mohammed Abdullah (21) of Royapettah, D. Krishnan (21) of Tiruttani and C. Saddam Hussein (20) of Perambur confessed to having indulged in the illegal activity claiming they were authorised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to implant the IMEI numbers.

Dr. Sudhakar said the deadline to implant IMEI numbers on mobile phone handsets ended on November 30 last year. “IMEI numbers are like fingerprints. By cloning these unique numbers, the accused persons have either cheated customers or connived with persons seeking to have fake IMEI numbers,” Dr. Sudhakar said adding that police seized systems, software and gadgets used to commit the offence.

The Police Commissioner said the crackdown on fake IMEI numbers would continue.

“This is a serious offence and we will take stern action against those indulging in the illegal activity.”