31 July 2007

Government campaign against prize fraud

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government, private and state-owned companies and non-governmental organization have joined forces to tackle the high number of fake prize competitions defrauding thousands of Indonesian consumers.

The nationwide campaign was launched Monday to call on the public to be skeptical of coupons in consumer products and cellular phone text messages telling them they had won prices.

"This doesn't only harm people both morally and materially, but it also (harms) the companies' images," the director general of aid and social assurance from the Social Affairs Ministry Chazali H.Situmorang said.

According to ministry data, the ministry and social agencies throughout Indonesia received over 100,000 reports of lottery fraud since July 2006.

Between January and the end of July his year, Frisian Flag Indonesia, Unilever Indonesia, Nestle Indonesia and Sari Husada received over 27,000 reports of fraud, with five percent of the victims transferring money totaling Rp 513 million (US$55,900) to fraudsters' accounts.

The current campaign will involve four private companies, state-owned Bank BNI, postal office PT Pos Indonesia, local non-governmental organization Anti Crimes Indonesian Society (MAKI) and a number of celebrities.

"The perpetrators have become more tricky. In the past they sent letters to people saying they had won prizes. But now they use telephones to call them as well as sending SMS (messages)," Chazali said.

Chazali also warned people against requests made by people claiming to be from the ministry asking for money for disaster relief.

Separate to the campaign, the ministry and social affairs agencies sent four teams to every province to help police investigate prize competition fraud.

Joseph Bataona of Unilever Indonesia said there were two precautions people could take to protect themselves from prize fraud.

"First, check whether the telephone number for consumer service written on the coupon is the same as the actual number of the company. And if there's a call asking consumers to transfer some amount of money before collecting the prize, it's obvious they're trying to deceive consumers," he said.

Ati, a resident of Manggarai, South Jakarta, said she once received a text message from someone claiming to be from a major cell phone provider asking her to transfer some money.

"Learning from the experience of my relative, who was a victim of such fraud, I didn't buy it. Instead of transferring some money to him, I yelled, calling him a robber," she said. (13)

The Jakarta Post - 31 July 2007


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