Alarmed by research indicating that the elderly are the most vulnerable to fraudsters, Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and CIB cybercrime investigators will collaborate with partners to provide digital literacy to senior people nationwide.
The minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, stated that more than 13 million people, or almost 20% of the Thai population, are above 60. Over the next 20 years, the elderly will account for 30% of the population. However, digital media literacy among the elderly remains low.
He referenced a recent study conducted by the Intelligence Centre for Senior Media Literacy (ICEML) at Mahidol University with the help of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), which discovered that more senior individuals fall prey to scammers.
About 70.53% were duped into revealing their personal information, while 22.40% chose to purchase low-quality products.
The ministry then collaborated with ThaiHealth, Mahidol University, and Tammapun Company to launch a media literacy programme for the elderly. Mr Varawut said the course would be administered at 2,456 elderly-specific schools.
According to Benjamaporn Limpisathian, a senior assistant manager at ThaiHealth, the curriculum will help improve media literacy skills for the elderly so they can use media securely and advocate for constructing an academic centre on media literacy for the old.
Assoc Prof Nuntiya Dounghummes, president of ICEML, stated that digital media literacy among the elderly is critical to preventing them from being victims of scammers in the future.
Types of Cybercrime in Thailand
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) has identified five types of cybercrime that have been common in the past year and warns people to avoid being duped online. The first concerns contact centre scammers, who they claim are always devising new ways to fool customers.
Some mimic state officials and use bogus phone numbers to intimidate victims. According to the CIB, some scammers send SMS with a link to lure victims into giving up access to their bank accounts.
Another example concerns online shopping scammers who put up phoney retail websites to defraud victims. Some businesses solicit customers to transfer money online for things they will never receive. According to the CIB, in some circumstances, the goods received by customers are counterfeit or of poor quality and do not correspond to what was represented.
A “hybrid method” fraud involves victims being drawn into a relationship with a scammer before being asked to invest their money in a bogus investment scheme. A CIB cybercrime investigator reported that victims are frequently cheated.
Romance scammers build phoney profiles on dating websites or contact victims through social media. Scammers form relationships with victims to earn their trust before fabricating claims and demanding money.
There are also job offer frauds targeting job seekers. Victims are frequently duped into handing over money and providing personal information. According to a cybercrime investigator, some scammers promise high-paying jobs but need victims to pay upfront fees.
Combating Cybercrime is Challenging
Victims are promised high-paying positions abroad but must first pay exorbitant fees. They are never, however, sent abroad as promised, according to the cybercrime investigator at CIB.
From March 1 of last year until December 20, more than 314,000 complaints were submitted to the police. There were 160,819 shopping scams, 50,536 job scams, 43,193 loan scams, 32,501 investment scams, and 27,620 contact centre scams.
According to Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, internet scams are expected to be a significant trend this year as people increasingly rely on online technology for daily activities such as shopping and leisure.
Combating cybercrime is challenging because scammers utilize technology to perpetrate crimes and hide their tracks, said Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop.
He said that scammers employ new tools and tactics, such as SIM boxes and Voice over IP (VoIP), to carry out their criminal activities, complicating law enforcement efforts to combat cybercrime.
In addition, law enforcement organizations confront three additional problems in countering cybercrime.
First, internet scammers typically operate within Myanmar’s border areas, where the fighting between ethnic rebels and government troops makes it difficult for Thai officials to investigate them, he added. He warned that scammers will also find safe havens in armed group-controlled areas, such as Laukkaing in northern Myanmar.
Second, he claimed that online scams result from complex criminal networks. He stated they are comprised of transnational corporations, making it difficult for authorities to coordinate and locate their operations.
To Stay One Step Ahead of Criminals
Finally, he noted that legal and jurisdictional difficulties complicate matters. Because online scams have no borders, worldwide cooperation is necessary to prosecute these crooks.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop established the Anti-internet Scam Operation Centre (AOC) 1441 hotline to tackle internet scams. It proactively brings together banking, internet service providers, law enforcement, and telecom authorities to address public safety concerns.
He said the program aims to improve coordination, database management, and information sharing, adding that the police also leverage technology to expedite their work and combat cybercrime.
He stated that technology is important in managing complaints, obtaining intelligence, assessing criminal patterns, and connecting with other organizations, such as banks, internet service providers, and telecom carriers.
To stay one step ahead of criminals, police are attempting to establish networks and connections with law enforcement agencies to share knowledge, investigation tactics, and information regarding illegal activity.
He stated that the police must refresh their expertise through “unlearn, relearn, and reskill” to face the shifting problems posed by emerging dangers such as Bitcoin, the dark web, and deep fakes.
According to Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop, changing organizational structures is critical to boosting law enforcement organizations’ efficacy in combating cybercrime.
As the CIB commissioner, he has been tasked by the prime minister to act as the AOC’s secretary-general and to convene a working group to collaborate with other agencies and establish effective ways for combating cybercrime.
“Because crime has crossed borders, it is important to strengthen regional and worldwide partnerships and coordination. Victims in Thailand can be targeted by criminals operating in other countries, and we require a strong ally to combat crime,” he said.
Organized Workshops at Schools
He stated that the public may actively participate in the battle against cybercrime, saying that the CIB has used social media to warn people about online fraud, spot scams, and encourage them to report suspicious activity.
He noted that CIB mobile applications will be available soon.
While online scams remain a huge threat this year, violent crimes such as mass shootings are rising all across the world, raising considerable worries for authorities and the general public, he said.
Incidents like these are often unanticipated and have a terrible impact on communities. Therefore, the CIB has organized workshops at schools and private businesses to assist them in understanding the risks and devise a plan to deal with such events while remaining safe, he said.
The agency has also collaborated with the Police General Hospital to monitor the mental health of its employees and provide early diagnosis and treatment, which is critical given the stressful nature of their work, he said.
He said it has also cracked down on illegal weaponry, leading to confiscating weapons and arresting several suspects.
Unrest and Potential Violence
The shooting at the Siam Paragon shopping mall in October of last year was one of the worst days in recent violent crime history. A 14-year-old child is suspected of randomly shooting individuals, killing one Thai and two foreign nationals and injuring five others.
The incident occurred just after the first anniversary of a shooting in Nong Bua Lam Phu, in which a former police officer assaulted a nursery with a knife and gun, killing 24 children and 12 adults.
The Siam Paragon incident has resulted in tighter gun control measures, including a prohibition on the importation of guns and imitation firearms.
Concerning southern unrest and potential violence in the capital, Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop stated that the RTP’s forward command has surveillance systems in place and monitors the activities of questionable individuals.
The CIB has directed units, including the Crime Suppression Division, Marine Police, and Highway Police, to work closely with local police.
Improving data collecting is one of the primary areas the CIB is working on to combat crime, according to Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop, who envisions the CIB as a data-driven organization.
He stated that extensive and reliable data allows the CIB to better analyze trends and patterns, make plans, and deploy resources to address them efficiently.
Poor data collecting can result in insufficient or erroneous data, making it impossible for police to undertake effective data analytics, he explained, adding that the CIB has collaborated with the Thailand Institute of Justice to create a robust and comprehensive crime database.
He stated that the International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes, produced by UNODC, provides a complete framework for producing criminal justice statistics and will be utilized as a model.
He stated that the CIB may use crime data to get useful insights and improve its crime prevention, suppression, and investigation efforts.
“Technology allows criminals to target people from anywhere, and new technologies make it more difficult to track them down.” The public should arm itself with knowledge. “It is the best and first line of defense against crime,” he explained.