When scams turn deadly
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When scams turn deadly

Reports on the killing of members of a poor Samut Prakan family duped by online fraudsters have further raised concerns about the perils of online scams and the pain they can inflict on victims and society.

The case also raises the question of whether the government can tackle online fraud effectively.

The family in question was already debt-ridden when the now-deceased wife tried to get more loans to help her husband clear a debt. In a rush to find more money, she fell victim to scammers and lost 1.7 million baht.

After finding out about this, her distraught husband killed her and their two sons, aged 9 and 13, with a knife, which he unsuccessfully tried to use to kill himself.

Police investigations have found the scamming gang works for a Chinese-run crime syndicate based in Poipet, Cambodia.

Last week, police arrested 11 Thais who were accused by police of being holders of proxy accounts and transferring cheated money from these accounts in Sa Kaeo province to Cambodia.

Early this week, Surat Thani police also arrested a Russian national who is suspected of involvement with the phone scam gang.

The police have worked hard on this case, but their current efforts are not enough to effectively deal with this type of crime -- online scams are too big, too fast and too elusive for them to catch.

According to the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, from March 2022 to May 31 this year, 296,243 cases were reported -- a daily average of 525, causing damage of 74 million baht per day.

In response to the tragedy involving the family, the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) this week proposed eight solutions to the new government.

Most of the proposals focus on making commercial banks play a more active role and be held responsible for failing to bolster cyber security.

One interesting recommendation demands that the government and Bank of Thailand cap the number of bank accounts for a person to five accounts.

Another proposed solution demands commercial banks monitor and red-flag the authorities about accounts with unusual cross-border transactions.

One solution calls for commercial banks to pay compensation if the liability is due to the banks' failure to protect customers' data privacy.

The government needs to give such proposals a chance.

While online scams thrive because of the convenience of online banking, commercial banks have been criticised for their lax attitudes towards customer protection on this issue.

A Royal Decree on Cyber Crime Prevention and Suppression that came into effect on March 17 permits banks to suspend any accounts they suspect are being used by scammers without waiting for an order from the police or victims.

The question is, how many commercial banks are doing so?

It is good news that Prasert Jantararuangtong -- the new minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES) -- says cracking down on scammers is a priority, and he has pledged to open a new centre to trace financial transactions.

While having another government centre trace financial transactions is a positive step, the DES can make a head-start by taking up the TCC recommendations and see to it that commercial banks do more to protect their customers against cyber scams.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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