Jakarta Police have arrested a ring of six fraudsters who conducted scams using short text messages, causing one victim to lose Rp 126 million (US$14,165).
The suspects, who are currently inmates detained at Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra, conducted their crime from prison after managing to smuggle in cellular phones, Jakarta Police cyber crime unit chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Hermawan said on Tuesday.
“They used various fraud methods, including sending short text messages asking for phone credit, and lying to their victims, telling them that one of their relatives had had an accident, or had been detained by police, and, therefore, they should send money as soon as possible,” Hermawan said.
The police added that one of the fraud victims was Sarajib Kaur, who lost Rp 126 million.
The fraud against Sarajib took place at around 5 a.m. on Aug. 29, when one of the fraudsters called the victim and pretended to be his son. The fraudster then told Sarajib that he had been arrested by the police for possessing drugs and needed money to be sent for his release.
“Another fraudster then pretended to be the arresting police officer and asked Sarajib to send money as soon as possible for his son’s release,” Hermawan said.
Concerned for his son, Sarajib then transferred Rp 126 million into the fraudsters’ back account. He realized he had been tricked when his real son telephoned and said he had not been arrested.
Sarajib then reported the case to the Jakarta Police on Sept. 5.
Hermawan said police then traced the phone number used by the fraud ring and determined that the call originated from Medan.
“We then narrowed down our search for the suspects and, by using a detector, we discovered that they were [already in detention] at the Tanjung Gusta penitentiary and we arrested them,” Hermawan said
He added that all 1,800 inmates at the Tanjung Gusta penitentiary were allegedly involved in the smuggling of cell phones into the facility.
Cell phone consumers have fallen victim to fraudulent crimes conducted not only by criminals but also by corporate telecommunication companies that allegedly steal phone credit by sending in unauthorized third party services to their clients via text messages.
Numerous complaints have emerged from cell phone users concerning short text messages offering prizes and ring back tones that, in fact, siphon off the users’ cell phone credit.
Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said he would report any content providers or operators found to be siphoning off customers’ cellular phone credit.
“If there are any indications of a crime, I will take the matter to the police,” he said Tuesday.
Tifatul added that the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Agency was working to investigate the cases of phone credit theft.
“We are investigating content providers and operators,” he said, as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.
Tifatul also promised to take action if any content providers or operators were found to have been involved in cell phone credit theft.
“I recently realized that I have often been sent [such messages],” he said.
He further added that he would hold a meeting with cell phone operators on Wednesday but declined to elaborate on the topics for discussion.