Online scam crackdown focuses on P2P crypto channel
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Online scam crackdown focuses on P2P crypto channel

State authorities working to suppress online scams have joined forces, pushing for the development of rules to supervise the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies on a peer-to-peer (P2P) basis.

According to these agencies, scammers spend the money obtained from their nefarious activities to buy cryptocurrencies P2P, aiming to reduce the risk of being traced following the fraud.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) needs to adjust or develop existing regulations related to digital assets to regulate P2P activities and limit the channel for scammers, said Prasert Jantararuangthong, digital economy and society (DES) minister.

Of total online fraud damage estimated at 100 million baht per day, roughly 80% of fraudsters use the P2P channel for money transfers because it is not regulated, according to the ministry.

Mr Prasert said the SEC may have to study and consider launching additional conditions to supervise the P2P channel of crypto exchange activities.

Existing regulations focus on regulating crypto trading on unauthorised market exchanges.

He said the focus on the P2P channel is part of a series of measures to develop complete solutions to handle online fraud and call centre gangs.

Mr Prasert said there are 2 million crypto accounts held by individuals, according to the SEC.

"The move to regulate the P2P platform would not affect cryptocurrency traders on authorised exchanges," he said.

Mr Prasert held a meeting on April 9 with related authorities to address call centre gangs and suppress all forms of online crimes.

The meeting included representatives from the SEC, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, Bank of Thailand, Thai Bankers' Association, Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), Department of Special Investigation, Royal Thai Police, Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The meeting follows an April 1 order by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin that state authorities show concrete results related to the crackdown on rampant online fraud within 30 days.

Mr Prasert said he will inform the premier about a new scheme to regulate P2P cryptocurrency purchases if the SEC shows no progress in developing existing regulations to deal with the issue.

Apart from the focus on the P2P channel, the meeting also outlined measures to comprehensively prevent online fraud and call centre scams.

First, the relevant parties are expected to jointly accelerate their data integration. The DES Ministry and the Anti-Online Scam Operation Centre (AOC) are co-hosting the integration. All agencies must submit related information to them, such as mule accounts, mule SIM cards and suspected URL/Line information of gambling websites.

Second, the central bank and the Thai Bankers' Association are expected to immediately remove the mule accounts.

Last week Amlo closed 318,298 mule bank accounts, while the AOC closed 102,900 mule accounts.

The NBTC has been working to control the problem of mule SIM cards. The regulator asked people with more than 100 SIM cards to re-register their SIM cards and verify their identities by Feb 14.

Some 2.57 million SIM card owners verified their identities. The DES Ministry and Royal Thai Police deactivated more than 800,000 mule SIM cards.

The Defence Ministry, NBTC and Royal Thai Police are expected to step up efforts to remove illegal telecom signal towers along the borders.

The meeting also assigned the Royal Thai Police to prepare an action plan to suppress call centre gangs and online crime with a clear goal.

The DES Ministry and Royal Thai Police are expected to seek cooperation from neighbouring countries to solve online crime problems.

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