In the bustling city of Bangkok, amidst the flurry of shoppers casually interacting with cash deposit machines and automatic teller machines, a financial predicament is brewing unnoticed by the busy masses. An unprecedented wave of fraud is quietly unfolding within the banking landscape, with an alarming number of illicit “mule” accounts identified by none other than the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo).
This issue parallels a compelling narrative akin to a detective novel, with up to half a million bank accounts fingered as potential mule accounts, utilised to streamline fraudulent transactions. However, Amlo is not standing idle. A comprehensive action plan is being rolled out to stamp out this burgeoning issue. From next month, the requirement of detailed identity verification for all cash deposits via ATMs will be implemented to facilitate more effective transaction tracking.
Out of a massive 121 million bank accounts currently harnessed nationwide, Amlo’s spokesman, Witthaya Nititham revealed that between 200,000 and 500,000 could potentially be mule accounts. To crack this case wide open, Amlo officials are joining forces with the police Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau. The combined effort is focused on scrutinising suspect accounts, which may have been cunningly registered by proxies acting on behalf of scam gangs.
Interestingly, their investigations have already yielded substantial results. The dogged agencies have pinpointed over 10,000 individuals who have orchestrated the opening of more than 70,000 mule accounts. This breakthrough was achieved through relentless police investigations into fraud cases, as they tracked victims’ money transfers, uncovering the deceptive banking tactics deployed.
This data, once verified, was promptly communicated to the respective commercial banks, resulting in effective actions to freeze these contentious accounts. Sounding the alarm at an even further increase in proxy accounts, Mr. Witthaya noted that these accounts are sprouting up at a rate of approximately 1,000 a week. These alarming statistics highlight the urgency of the agency’s anti-fraud measures.
As part of these crucial anti-fraud measures, from November 11, all ATM cash depositors will need to provide proof of identity. For every deposit of up to 30,000 baht, a depositor must provide their citizenship ID number and their mobile phone number. On verification of these details, the depositor will receive a secure one-time password (OTP) from the bank which they’ll use to finalize the transaction.
For more substantial deposits ranging between 30,000 and 100,000 baht, depositors will be required to provide further details encompassing their ATM, debit card, or credit card credentials, along with their personal identification number (PIN).
Over the past year, this financial crime crackdown has resulted in Amlo freezing and seizing more than 9.4 billion baht worth of assets implicated in fraud and online gambling cases. Most of these cases have been adjudicated in court, resulting in assets valued at 8.8 billion baht being forfeited to the state.
As this crime-fighting narrative continues to unfold, the diligent stakeholders tirelessly work to outsmart the scam gangs, ensuring the financial safety of the nation’s citizens.