Call centre scams make headlines daily, but not everyone is interested in trying to understand the details of their fraudulent schemes. As a result, there are new victims and unfortunate cases reported regularly.
A few weeks ago, there was a tragic case involving a phone scam. Sanit Dokmai and his family risked losing their house due to Sanit's guarantee of a loan to someone who defaulted. His wife tried to pay the debt but she was tricked by a phone scammer and transferred 1.7 million baht to the swindler, who claimed she had to transfer money in order to process the loan. Sanit fell into depression and as a result killed his wife and their sons, aged nine and 13. He then attempted suicide by slashing his throat and wrist but was unsuccessful. He is currently in hospital.
After the case became the talk of the town, the police quickly followed up and attempted to arrest the owners of the mule bank accounts linked with the scammers. However, most scam gangs operate from abroad, making it difficult to track down the victims' money or arrest the leaders.
Since phone scammers cause numerous people to lose large amounts of money and even their lives, content creators have released videos regarding phone scams on various platforms. Some warn people about tactics employed by scammers. Others record instances when a phone scammer calls them and they pranked the scammers. Even Princess Ubolratana released a video on the YouTube channel To Be Number One titled "What Should People Do When They Are Defrauded By Phone Scam Gangs?". The content aims to educate people about how phoney call centre scammers trick people.
One of the fraudulent schemes that Princess Ubolratana presents on her vlog and that many people recognise involves phone scammers informing victims that their bank accounts are linked to drug dealing and money laundering. Victims are then asked to transfer money for inspection and end up losing all the money they transfer.
People should watch the vlog to learn about these scams since it can prevent them from being scammed. Apart from the fraudulent schemes that people recognise, I came across a scam that is not often reported in the news. The scammers' goal is similar to when they pose as representatives of a model agency, but the scenario is different. In a common fraud, fake agents ask young people to send them naked photos/videos for casting purposes. After receiving the nude photos, the young victims are continually blackmailed for money in exchange for not releasing the images.
In this different plot, the phone scammers claim that they are policemen and tell the victim that she is a suspect who has a scar on her body. They ask her to prove that she is not the suspect by undressing. The scheme may sound ridiculous to others, but many naive women have fallen victim to this. When victims shared their experiences on social media and asked for advice because they were worried their naked videos would be leaked, it was disheartening to see them being blamed and called stupid. Many victims tried to connect with each other, so they could have someone to turn to.
People of all ages can fall victim to call centre scams. Fraud related to drugs and money laundering may not often succeed because most people recognise the trick and hang up on the scammers. However, the concerning aspect of phone scams is that they know our personal data.
In the case of Praweenamai Baicloy, a new anchor with Channel 3, a scam caller claimed to be an officer from the Department of Land. The scammer had specific details about Praweenamai's land, including its size and location. The fraudulent officer insisted that Praweenamai needed to update the information so that she could pay taxes properly. The TV anchor lost almost 1 million baht after downloading a fake Department of Land app.
The Department of Land conducted an investigation and concluded that the scammer had gathered information about the victim's land deeds from the dark web, mail delivery services, Google Maps and maps created by the Department of Land. The department insisted that the personal data of landowners has not been leaked.
Despite the Department of Land guaranteeing data security, many people still suspect people in phone companies, banks and government organisations may be involved in these fraudulent schemes. I once asked a phone scammer how she got my number and she replied that she had stolen it before hanging up. It seems like Thai people have no choice but to protect their data and money themselves. Hanging up and staying informed about the latest tactics in phone scams is probably the best way to avoid being conned.
Suwitcha Chaiyong is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.