During a news conference held at the hub of the Royal Thai Police, a joint warning was issued about online fraud. Authorities from Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Amata Corporation Plc all attended to enforce the gravity of this issue. Pol General Sompong Chingduang, a distinguished advisor to the country’s top cop, and the esteemed Pol Maj-General Chusak Khanadnit, the helm of the High-Tech Crime Division, were the point-man for the Thai police during the meeting.
A whopping 300,000 victims filed grievances to the police via the internet relating to fraudulent scenarios. From March 1 of the preceding year until the ending of July this year, unsuspecting victims incurred a staggering loss of 41 billion baht. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that 24,000 out of the total pool of cases (a worrying 8.14%) were sham investments. This led to monetary losses pegged at an astounding 12 billion baht, accounting for 35% of the overall damage during this period.
Pol Maj-General Chusak presented statistics that pointed towards Facebook as the prime medium for economic fraudulence, particularly those related to illicit investments, during May and July of this year. To elaborate, the top five online platforms that were manipulated by fraudsters during this time frame were:
– Facebook (145 incidents, losses totalling 107.593 million baht)
– Websites (34 incidents, losses totalling 8.6 million baht)
– Line (7 incidents, losses totalling 8.15 million baht)
– TikTok (1 incident, losses reaching 60,000 baht)
– Twitter (1 incident, losses capped at 7,000 baht)
In a move to make their fraudulent operations more convincing, scammers resorted to using images of senior executives from influential corporations, and logos from trusted organisations such as CP and Amata as well as, chillingly, the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
Scammers, with Machiavellian finesse, asked gullible victims for an initial investment of just 1,000 baht, promising a return rate between 30-70%. As soon as the bait was swallowed, chat bots played their part in luring victims to a group chat on Line or Open Chat. Here, accomplices played their part in deceiving victims, making them believe in exaggerated returns from investment schemes. The seduction was furthered by showing bank transfer receipts to solidify the victim’s trust.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse. In some instances, victims were led to ‘VIP’ groups with half a dozen members who were all involved in the scheme. Victims were misled with false notions that withdrawing their investments could possibly impair other members’ profitability. Some victims were hoodwinked into losing a significant amount of cash.
Dr Wiwat Krommadit, the CEO of Amata, expressed distress that the company’s name was unscrupulously used to deceive the people of Thailand. Amata took immediate steps to collaborate with law enforcement for the apprehension of those involved in these scams.
Further deceptive techniques were discussed by Pol Maj-General Chusak. This involved creation of fake online complaint pages, posing as police authorities, to further swindle victims. Deceptive advertisements were purchased on Facebook and search engines such as Google, Bing, and Safari which directed helpless victims tothese misleading pages.
Earlier this week, the Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn expressed his intent to request courts to banish Facebook from Thailand due to its refusal to counteract scammer pages relying on its platform for advertisements.