Scam call gangsters forced university students to record phoney kidnapping videos that they planned to send to victims’ parents in order to obtain ransom money.
The issue came to light after another university student in the Lat Krabang district was duped and rescued on Friday. Police believe the scam call gangs were operating out of Myanmar and Cambodia.
On Sunday, Pol Maj Gen Panthana Nuchanart, deputy commissioner of the Immigration Bureau (IB) and chief of the Police Cyber Taskforce (PCT) Team 1, announced that police had rescued yet another victim who had been duped into transferring money to call-center scammers.
On August 7, one of the fraudsters called the victim, a third-year student at a university in Bangkok’s Bang Khen district, and claimed to be from the Thailand Post Office in Songkhla province.
They informed her that her bank passbook had been discovered in a package associated with money laundering.
According to the scam call gangs, the package contained 12 Myanmar passports, nine ATM cards, and eight bank passbooks, including the victim’s. Knowing that the victim was unable to travel to the southern province herself, the scam call gangs advised the victim file a report with Songkhla police and agreed to help her through the procedure.
They later invited another call centre employee to pose as the superintendent of the Songkhla police station. The bogus cops asked if the victim had received an unusual amount of money in her bank account, and she discovered that a transaction of 13,000 baht had been made earlier that day from an unknown bank account.
According to Pol Maj Gen Panthana, the scammers mailed the victim bogus paperwork with her ID number and full name, telling her that they were police.
After being informed that she was implicated in a money-laundering case, the scam call gang directed the victim to obtain a new phone number and relocate to a hotel room in the Rangsit neighbourhood of Pathum Thani before erasing all of her social media accounts on her mobile phone.
She was told to create a new Line account on her iPad and solely communicate with the scammers, who were dressed as Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) employees. Scammers were continually monitoring her incommunicado state via video calls.
The scammers instructed the victim to tape her hands and ankles together and videotape herself as if she had been kidnapped. They eventually transmitted the victim’s recordings and images to her mother, duping her into thinking she had been kidnapped for ransom.
According to Pol Maj Gen Panthana, as authorities arrived at the hotel in Pathum Thani to rescue the victim, the scam call gang promptly hung up. An investigation revealed that they are based in the Myanmar town of Thachikek.
On Friday, another incident occurred. A second-year university student in Lat Krabang district received the same writing, but Thailand Post Office stated the victim had mailed an unlawful item to Songkhla province.
Later, the victim was asked to wire money from all of her accounts to the call scam gang, who claimed they needed to look into her bank accounts’ activity history. They also wanted a 3-million-baht ransom, stating that she was being held prisoner and that her fingers would be severed if the money was not wired.
With 4.72 billion internet users, 60.1% of the global population currently spends roughly seven hours each day online, accelerating the economy’s digitalization. Crime is swiftly following in this milieu, with most Western countries stating that online scams are now the most reported sort of crime.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), 96% of Australians have been victims of a scam in the last five years, with half of them approached weekly or daily by scammers. In the United Kingdom, 50% of TCSEW respondents reported getting a phishing email, text message, or social media message.
Scams are no longer just a Western problem. In three months, 53% of Filipinos reported being targeted by fraudsters, with 11% becoming victims. Other emerging countries, such as Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya, have also reported an upsurge in online frauds, particularly via mobile phones.
In Nigeria, the number of mobile transactions climbed by 164% in 2021, and as a result, mobile scams surged as well. 62% of Saudi Arabian consumers reported receiving spam and scam communications, mostly on their mobile phones, while 14% acknowledged to falling for the scam and losing money.
Two big data breaches in South Africa triggered a flood of phishing attacks using highly personal information. According to Indonesia, 25% of its inhabitants have been victims of internet fraud, making it the country’s second-most recorded category of crime.
Scammers try to recruit victims on social media sites in practically every country. According to Pakistani officials, Facebook is the source of 23% of internet crime complaints. According to Indonesia, 51% of scams from scam call gangs begin on social media, but in the United States, more than one in every four persons who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it began on social media with an ad, a post, or a message.
There appears to be a trend towards holding social media platforms more accountable over robo call scam. The ACCC is initiating legal action against Meta for allegedly misleading behaviour in advertising scam celebrity crypto adverts on Facebook. On a more positive note, Meta is assisting with an online scam awareness campaign in Thailand and Malaysia.
Another scam tendency that various nations, including Brazil, China, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Thailand, are reporting is that young people are more frequently targeted by scam call gangs and lose more money than the elderly. However, seniors continue to lose the most money, particularly due to investment/crypto frauds.
Students appear to be a targeted demographic in Finland. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 were the hardest hit (23.3%), with 8% more scams than in 2020.
According to New Zealand, 55% of people who report fraud by scam call gangs are above the age of 40, while a Thai study found that Generation Y and Z are the most vulnerable to internet scams owing to the amount of time they spend online.
Similarly, according to a Chinese poll of college students, more than a tenth of respondents lost money to scam call gangs, prompting the Chinese government to begin a fresh wave of education efforts targeted at making young adults more sceptical.
For years, scams have been industrialising. In a new development, Taiwanese and Chinese individuals have been duped by scam call gangs who mostly target young Asian people via social media, offering well-paid work and lodging in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.
When they arrive, their passports are confiscated, and they are sold to various groups and forced to work in offices that run illegal phone or web frauds. Taiwanese officials believe that about 5,000 individuals had gone to Cambodia and never returned.
Another trend is the increasing expansion of SaaS (Scam-as-a-Service). Scams are becoming more automated and tailored to certain target groups. Local scam organisation receive scam scripts (websites).
Cybercriminals also specialise in certain areas (for example, traffic generation via social media, SMS and email spamming, cryptocurrency laundering, and retargeting scam victims).
More countries are beginning to offer tools to its citizens to check for harmful websites, email addresses, bank accounts, cryptocurrency addresses, and phone numbers, similar to commercial organisations such as ScamAdviser.com and Trend Micro. Malaysia is going this a step further by providing the public with a search engine and app that allows anyone to examine phone and bank account numbers used by criminal syndicates.