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Dubious prepaid lines to be cut


PETALING JAYA: Spam, scams and unwanted “special offers” on your mobile phone could drop sharply in the near future, thanks to an exercise to weed out prepaid subscribers with dubious registration details.

It is learnt that about 1.6 million prepaid users whose particulars are suspect may have their lines terminated by early next year if they do not come forward to verify their information.

It is learnt that the subscribers concerned will be notified by their respective telcos in batches over the coming weeks, instructing them to verify and update their details or risk having the lines terminated.

These discrepancies in registration details were uncovered following a data verification exercise by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), using National Registration Department (NRD) records.

“We found the particulars given to the telcos did not match NRD records,” said MCMC Network Security and Enforcement sector chief officer Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin.

MCMC found that some subscribers had used other people’s identities while some had mismatched identity card numbers, he added.

Malaysia has 46 million active handphone users at present.

Of this number, 32 million or 69.5% are prepaid users.

“If they don’t update their details within a specific time after the notification, we have instructed that the numbers be terminated,” he said.

This streamlining was being done to weed out dubious subscribers and reduce the number of telecommunication lines with false ownership.

“This is done for security purposes. It is also done to curb spamming, scams and unsolicited messages via SMS,” Zulkarnain said.

The exercise, which started early this year, would allow telcos and the authorities to have a better handle on prepaid services and prevent identity theft when numbers are registered.

The exercise will be carried out until January.

Once the deadline passes, all prepaid numbers with unverified details will automatically be terminated.

MCMC started requiring prepaid lines to be registered at the end of 2006, with subscribers asked to provide their name, address and identity card number, among other details, to their respective telcos.

Under the MCMC’s new guidelines, enforced early this year, an individual may now only own a maximum of five prepaid numbers.

Previously, Zulkarnain said, they could have up to 10.

“The move to control prepaid ownership is to curb its misuse by unscrupulous users or criminals,” he said.

He said the exercise is to create a safe and trusted platform for telecommunications as Malaysia moves towards a digital economy, especially with online transactions using mobile numbers as identification or for verification becoming more commonplace.

In addition to legitimate users like telemarketers and property agents, it is believed that loan sharks, illegal gambling syndicates, scammers and spammers also use prepaid numbers to bombard users with unsolicited offers through text messages, messaging apps or even direct calls.

“This exercise will make it difficult for unscrupulous users to use the prepaid service,” Zulkarnain said.

Communications and Multimedia Consumer Forum of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Mohamad Yusrizal Yusoff welcomed MCMC’s move to tighten prepaid registration.

He said it would definitely help bring about a better prepaid environment.

“This would create a safer and more secure platform for mobile connectivity, especially with handphones frequently being used to authenticate and verify online transactions,” he said.

CFM is a non-governmental organisation established to protect the rights of consumers in the communications and multimedia sphere.

   

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