Bitcoin a godsend for call scams
Authorities are meting out measures to prevent further damage after new findings suggest fraudsters in various scams have switched to cryptocurrencies to hide their ill-gotten assets.
Pol Gen Tanitsak Teerasawat, director of the Royal Thai Police (RTP) centre to fight call-centre and online scams, said the use of bitcoin is hampering efforts to recover stolen money and return it to victims.
He said law enforcement officials have traced the money trail left behind by some scammers and found the stolen money is flowing into cryptocurrencies, which are largely unregulated.
He said that makes locating and retrieving stolen loot a formidable task.
The RTP has held talks with firms that offer cryptocurrency trading platforms and found that about 20 million baht stolen by call-centre scammers has been turned into crypto-assets.
"We have traced the financial trail of call-centre scams and found they are turning more and more to digital money. We don't know where the money has gone, so this has caused huge damage.
"We need to discuss the issue with various parties to understand the process and lay down measures to help the victims," Pol Gen Tanitsak said before he attended a meeting on call-centre and online scams.
The meeting was attended by the deputy commissioner of the Police Tourism Bureau, Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) representative Siwat Chaobangngam, and the Department of Business Development representative Thanee Olarnratmanee.
Also invited were representatives from private companies involved in the trading of cryptocurrencies including David Barnes, managing director of Bitcoin Co Ltd which owns the widely used online bitcoin trading platform Bitcoin Exchange Thailand (bx.in.th).
According to Pol Gen Tanitsak, measures are needed to help law enforcement agencies deal with the trend otherwise the damage from call-centre scams will be massive.
While noting that the anti-money laundering law does not cover this kind of transaction, he said authorities are drafting a law to regulate cryptocurrency trading.
He said once regulated, the use of these digital coins and assets will be subject to examination.
Bitcoin is the most active investment vehicle among cryptocurrencies, but its value has seen a rollercoaster ride since its inception.
Although global central banks have yet to approve cryptocurrencies as legal tender, bitcoin investment volumes continue to increase as people speculate on its future value and hope to make a killing.
Following the wild swings seen in bitcoin's trading value, especially over the last two months, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the Finance Ministry to educate people about the risks of bitcoin investment.