PM orders ministry to ramp up war against online fraud

PM orders ministry to ramp up war against online fraud

Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau officers examine evidence seized from a call centre scam gang after a raid in August. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau officers examine evidence seized from a call centre scam gang after a raid in August. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has instructed the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry to ramp up its crackdown on online fraud and call centre scams, after he was targeted by a scammer himself.

"Some messaged, while others called, even greeting me by my full name, so I just ignored them," he said.

He urged the public to heed the advice from the DES Ministry on ways to avoid falling victim to such scams, which are growing more complex and sophisticated. They are also taking up increasing amounts of police time as they track down those responsible.

To help those who have been defrauded by online scammers, the government has set up a hotline through which victims can file a report and seek a recourse. The hotline is 1441 inside Thailand.

Separately, the DES Ministry said it is expediting its investigation into reports which claimed the government's database containing the personal information of millions of Thai citizens has been hacked and its contents sold online.

A report last year said the personal data of some 30 million Thai citizens could be bought on RaidForums.

"The claim could be just an exaggeration, as that has happened in the past," DES Minister Prasert Chantararuangthong said.

He said the Office of the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), the National Cyber Security Agency (NCSA) and the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) have been assigned to work together to deal with the issue.

The ministry is also looking into novel ways of detecting a scam before it takes place, he said, saying mobile network providers can flag a SIM card which is being used to make huge amounts of calls in a short period of time, which scammers usually do, he said.

Mr Prasert also said the ministry has drawn up a strategy to help combat online fraud and call centre scams.

For the short-term, the PDPC has set up a surveillance centre called PDPC Eagle Eye, which will keep an eye on signs of a possible leak of personal information, he said.

Between Nov 9-20, the centre reviewed the internal procedure for handling personal data of 3,119 government agencies and private organisations -- 1,158 of which were found to be inadequate.

These organisations have been asked to address the issues, he said, adding that as of Sunday, 781 have followed the advice and corrected their mistakes.

More importantly, the PDPC detected at least three cases of personal information of people being stolen and sold illegally to other parties, he said.

While legal action is being pursued against parties found involved in the three cases, the PDPC Eagle Eye centre is conducting a more intensive inspection of around 9,000 organisations to look for signs of more abuses and misuse of personal information, he said.

"The government takes the hunt for the people behind the illegal sale of personal information of others seriously and vows to bring them to justice.

"In cases where the culprits are known to be in other countries, the police will seek Interpol's assistance," he said.

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