JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Amid customers’ complaints of cellular phone credit theft, the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Board (BRTI) has held a meeting with 60 suspected content providers and told them that those found to have offered fraudulent services to the public can be shut down.
"This is a crime. Their licenses will be revoked and they will be blacklisted if content providers are found to have stolen customers’ phone credits. We will ask all cellular phone operators to terminate their business relations with such content providers," Communications and Informatics Minister Tifatul Sembiring said.
Cheating through cellphone text massaging system to suck customers’ phone credits has become rampant lately. The modus operandi include offering collateral-free loans, prizes and requests for phone credits.
Tifatul said that his ministry had held a meeting with the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) of the Indonesian Police Headquarters regarding the rampant cellular phone credit scams.
"Yesterday, we had a meeting with the police investigation department (Bareskrim) and the BRTI has collected data, the alleged credit theft has been reported to the Bareskrim," the minister said.
Reports by victims of SMS fraud are still flowing in. The number of cellular phones in Indonesia has reached 230 million so that a relatively long time must be allowed for more reports to come in. "The cases that have been reported are now being investigated," the minister said.
BRTI said it had gathered 60 suspected content providers suspected to have committed the crime through cellular telephone premium services which were believed to have sucked customers phone credits. The minister said content providers that prove to have committed fraud would be given administrative sanctions in the form of license revocation based on existing laws.
According to the minister, his ministry had received 9,638 reports from the public, and about 95 percent of the cases had been settled. He said the reports were handled by the BRTI through call center number 159.
He said that at present many reports on phone credit theft had been received by the ministry of communications and informatics. "We are now investigating the allegations of phone credit theft. If we find evidence, we will report it to the police," Tifatul said.
Roy Suryo, member of House Commission I on information affairs, asked the minister to publicly name the 60 content providers that have been defrauding people of cellphone credits since July 2011. He said the swindlers often changed their names to make it difficult to trace them.
"In this case, BRTI must adopt a firm stance, particularly with regard to registration so that consumers will not continue to be disadvantaged," Roy said.
In the meantime, high publicity by the media about SMS fraud is seen by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) as a development that could kill Indonesia’s creative industry.
Kadin said in its press release that the heavy publicity by the media about the SMS fraud was feared to harm the interest of many parties which officially use the SMS medium as a communications means. It has the potential to kill content creative industries in Indonesia.
For this purpose, the Indonesian Mobile and Online Content Association and the Indonesian Cellular Telecommunications Association (ATSI) feel the need to straighten out media reports on the cheating though SMS text dispatches.
They said that SMS text messages now being on public spot light were in three classifications. There were SMS messages sent by parties not related to the operators and content providers such as the one which asked phone credits from phone customers.
There were also SMS messages offering collateral-free loans which were also sent by parties not related to the operators and content providers. According to ATSI, this kind of SMS is not a cheating but a form of marketing. The third type is that content premium SMS which constitute an official cooperation between the operators and the content providers with certain agreements.
The agreements contain articles on the rights and duties of parties involved.Kadin said that it was clear that the articles of the agreements contained was no policy allowing the sucking of the customers’ phone credits illegally.
The Head of the Police Criminal Investigation Body, Commissioner General Sutarman said in Bali on Tuesday that police were still investigating cases of phone credit stealing. He said that phone credit theft involved two parties. One party, namely phone users, were aware of their credits being sucked because they were promised prizes.
Sutarman said that his side was cooperating with the Ministry of Communications and Informatics and information technology experts in the investigation of SMS scams. In the meantime, banks were also called on to close fraudulent accounts that were used to ask for transfer of money through the cellular text messaging system.
"In order to protect and provide customers with convenience, all banks must be serious in clearing accounts used to cheat. Banks also have to improve their marketing strategies by observing the principles of ethics," Kemal Azis Stamboel of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said.
He said in the future there should no longer be SMSs terrorizing bank customers or offering credits without collateral (KTA) to them. Bank Indonesia should strongly reprimand banks which were still involved in such a practice.
Many bank customers have complained about being bothered by SMSs containing KTA offers or requests for money transfers to accounts in the name of people with false identities.