Beware of data-stealing syndicates

  • Nation
  • Friday, 30 Jun 2017

Fed up: (From left) D. Deivanai, A. Pursotaman, P. Saraswathy, R. Susilah, K.S. Vimala, Renukah, N. Nelani and Arokiasamy posing with their police reports and statutory declaration after lodging a report at the MCMC headquarters.

EXCLUSIVE: GOMBAK: Beware whenever you are asked to divulge personal details – the information may end up in the hands of data-stealing syndicates.

A mute retiree learnt this the hard way when he found himself in debt for a postpaid line although he has never owned a mobile phone.

Liang Ngan Kan, 73, claimed that he now owes a telco RM1,800 after his personal details were apparently exploited by an unknown party to register several postpaid numbers in late 2015.

His wife Mariamah Anamalai, 62, and sister-in-law Papati, 66, also started receiving bills at around the same time even though they do not have accounts with the company.

Liang’s daughter Kasthuri, 32, was shocked that someone like her father – who has no practical use for a mobile phone – could be slapped with a hefty charge for a service he never subscribed to in the first place.

She lodged a police report on behalf of her parents and aunt, but decided against pursuing the case further as it required court appearances and filing statutory declarations.

“We decided to just ignore the bills because they are too much of a hassle for my parents who are old,” Kasthuri told The Star while visiting her family at a low-cost flat in Taman Prima Selayang, Batu Caves, recently.

Her parents and aunt were only three of some 15 people from the same residential area with such complaints.

Each victim has one principal line and several supplementary lines registered under their name.

Long-time resident Arokiasamy Thomas, 86, lodged two police reports after he started to receive the bills in mid-2015.

Bills arrived every month, adding to Arokiasamy’s so-called “debt” of thousands of ringgit.

For two years, he received aggressive letters and calls from debt collection agencies, threatening legal action against him should he fail to settle the arrears.

The other victims also received similar calls and messages, which they have described as “bordering on harassment”.

Another victim was single mother Renukah Doraisamy, 40, who runs a stall in Taman Prima Selayang.

“Most of the victims are either retired, unemployed or earning low wages.

“They (debt collectors) are always calling us,” she lamented. “It’s causing us a lot of distress.”

The victims said various organisations would come to the low-cost housing area with donations, such as rice and other provisions.

In order to receive the items, residents had to give the donors a photocopy of their MyKad.

They suspect that this could be how their details fell into the wrong hands.

Eight of the victims, including Arokiasamy and Renukah, lodged a report at the Malaysian Communi­cations and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) headquarters in Cyberjaya on June 8.

The cases have since been resolved.

The service provider confirmed that the registration for the postpaid accounts was “unauthorised”.

“This has been classified as fraudulent,” its representative wrote in an e-mail.

The service provider said it would waive the outstanding bills for the unauthorised accounts.

In an interview, MCMC enforcement and investigation head Datuk Mohd Shafie Harun described the Taman Prima Selayang cases as the work of a “syndicate motivated by profit to steal personal data”.

Mohd Shafie said under MCMC guidelines, an applicant needs to be physically present with valid identification documents in order to register for a number.

“However, some of the victims don’t even know they had numbers registered under their names until they received calls from debt collectors,” he explained.

Mohd Shafie said it is the responsibility of telcos to ensure that registered dealers comply with the guidelines.

“Due to stiff competition in the industry, telcos come up with higher incentives to motivate dealers to get more customers.

“However, some dealers have no regard for the consumers or the law. It’s all about the money,” he said.

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