Keeping tabs on cybercrime

Keeping tabs on cybercrime

A lack of trained staff makes it difficult for authorities to clamp down on this emerging form of crime

Police raid a building in Bangkok Noi district after being tipped off that offices were being used by a sports gambling outfit that allowed customers to bet online at About 40 computers and documents on gambling business were seized. Several suspects fled before the search. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Police raid a building in Bangkok Noi district after being tipped off that offices were being used by a sports gambling outfit that allowed customers to bet online at About 40 computers and documents on gambling business were seized. Several suspects fled before the search. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

While street crime rates experienced a drop last year, cybercrime rates are expected to continue rising in 2019 as there aren't enough law enforcement officers who are sufficiently trained to deal with the sudden spike in technology-based crime.

That was a warning issued jointly the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) of the Royal Thai Police.

Cybercrime rates rose considerably because of the rapid spread of computer- and internet-based technologies, which have been widely adopted by large numbers of people including criminals, said national police chief Pol Gen Chakptip Chaijinda.

"Cybercrime, or computer crime, is an emerging form of crime that poses new challenges for law enforcement officers," he said in an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post.

Online fraud was one of the most common forms of cyber crime reported last year, he said.

In most cases, the victims were lured into investing in fake investment programmes that promised handsome profits in exchange for a small investment, said Pol Gen Chaktip.

Other cybercrimes that were commonly reported last year included "call centre" frauds, romance scams, intellectual property infringements, as well as human trafficking and loan sharking, he added.

To deal with the rise in cybercrimes, the government established Thailand's Action Taskforce for Information Technology Crime Suppression (Tactics), and set up 11 operation centres across the country, he said.

"Since its establishment, Tactics have resolved all 508 complaints of call centre frauds it had received," said Pol Gen Chaktip, before adding that Tactics has resolved 90% out of the 225 romance scam complaints that were lodged.

Cybercrimes caused 428.49 million baht in losses last year, and a total of 397.63 million baht in assets were seized in cyber crime related cases, he said.

As a comparison, 21,383 people filed complaints about loan sharks and a total of 16 billion baht in assets were returned to the victims in 2018.

Another crime that saw a significant rise last year was drug-related crime, said Pol Gen Chakthip.

"The number of drug-related crimes rose by 28.5% last year, which reflects an increase of 93,140 cases from 2017," he said.

"A total of 556,502 drug cases were reported last year, in which as many as 615,134 suspects were arrested."

CIB commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sutin Suppuang concurred with Pol Gen Chakthip's assessment of cybercrime, and admitted that suppressing it is more difficult as the perpetrator can commit a crime while residing in another country.

The main problem is that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) does not have enough personnel to keep up with the changing nature of criminal behaviour, he said.

Pol Lt Gen Sutin also said that as the country inches closer towards the general election, the number of provocative posts on social media channels such as YouTube and Facebook have risen significantly, in some cases sparking complaints from the victims.

"We need more police officers that are trained [to deal with cybercrime] to lead the effort to suppress and investigate this emerging form of crime, or else cybercrime will continue to claim an increasing number of victims," he said.

Meanwhile, CSD commissioner Pol Maj Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej said the CSD handled 18,923 cases which were categorised as street crime, which reflects a drop of about 1,000 cases when compared with the CSD's report in 2017.

As for the coming election, he said, the CSD already has in place a plan to tackle crimes involving influential gangs of thugs and hitmen, which is expected to flare up during the campaign period.

Besides the police, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Paisit Wongmuang also said that the adoption of internet-based technology has made it easier for criminals to reach and defraud their victims.

Pol Col Paisit, made the comment after a discussion with the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the Thai Bankers' Association on cybercrime prevention on last Friday.

He said that some criminal organisations have used cloud technology to their advantage, by using it to mask their actual addresses and disguise their identities.

"Many transactions were also carried out in digital currencies, such as Bitcoin," he said.

"Online shoppers should be more cautious about whom they transact with," he said.

"Also, they should check the state's regulations about what can be legally traded online."

Pol Col Paisit also warned internet users about "phishing", which is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive private information — such as usernames, passwords, and/or credit card details — through websites that were deliberately set up to mimic the look and function of trusted payment gateways. Sometimes they can be hard to tell apart.

In several past cases, victims were lured into transferring money to criminals who used fake email addresses, or hacked e-mail accounts of relatives and friends that the victims know and trust, he said.

"To avoid being scammed, if someone you know asks to borrow some money online, immediately contact the person to make sure that it was a genuine request made by someone you actually know," said Pol Col Paisit.

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