Phone-scam warnings stepped up

Phone-scam warnings stepped up

Be alert for fraudsters claiming to represent public agencies, says government

Thais working for a phone scam gang are detained in Sihanoukville, Cambodia after a raid by a joint Thai-Cambodian police operation in March 2022. (Photo: Royal Thai Police)
Thais working for a phone scam gang are detained in Sihanoukville, Cambodia after a raid by a joint Thai-Cambodian police operation in March 2022. (Photo: Royal Thai Police)

The government has warned people about the increasing number of call centre scam gangs claiming to be state agencies.

Public agencies do not have a policy for contacting members of the public directly in any case, said Traisuree Taisaranakul, a deputy government spokesperson.

The warning came after it was revealed that TV news anchor Paweenamai Baikhloi had lost over one million baht after falling victim to scammers posing as officials from the Department of Land (DoL).

Ms Traisuree said most scammers normally pick agencies that work closely with people, such as the DoL, the Customs Department, or the Department of Business Development. A caller claiming to be from one of these agencies might say that victims need to update their personal information or verify information with a face scan.

She said that scammers had also been known to impersonate officers from the police, water and electricity authorities, the post office, logistics companies and financial institutions.

This week police warned about a new scam preying on university students and involving callers who claim to be from the Anti Money Laundering Office. They eventually convince young adults that they have been kidnapped in order to extort money from their parents.

Ms Traisuree said public agencies have been instructed not to contact clients over the phone or send short messages with any links to people’s mobile phones.

She also suggested that people recheck any information they receive over the phone. They can call the agencies directly, said Ms Traisuree.

In the case of the news anchor, the Department of Land issued a warning notification on Friday about the scam, in which a victim was told to click on a link sent via SMS and install a fake application, from which the scammers remotely gained access to their mobile phone.

The DoL has no authority over land tax collection, as that falls under local administrations, said Ms Traisuree.

She also suggested that people download the agencies’ applications through official app stores or contact them through verified Line accounts before proceeding with any transaction.

The Thailand Bankers’ Association (TBA) said it had suspended the victim’s three bank accounts immediately after news about the defrauded TV news anchor surfaced. It will also investigate the case. Any others who fell victim to the scam can file a complaint with police, who can freeze their financial transactions during the investigation, the TBA said.

The TBA and the Thailand Banking Sector Computer Emergency Response Team (TB-CERT) have also issued instructions (see graphic below) on how to avoid falling victim to scams.

Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the caretaker minister of Digital Economy and Society, has promised that his ministry will develop a mechanism to support people who have fallen victim to scams.

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