As online scams remain rampant and in recent cases scammers are using the names of high-profile businesspeople to lure the public to invest with them, local authorities are lining up to advise people to be cautious and verify the authenticity of any links or messages sent to them.
The risk for people who rush to invest is falling victim to fraud, according to authorities.
￼What do many scammers have in common?
According to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry, when people receive messages from organisations inviting them to join an investment for a financial product, they should verify the facts with the organisation first.
The ministry advises people to pay attention to certain information before making an investment decision. First, many of these scam messages promise unusually high returns on investment after a short period. These claims can entice people hoping for a big investment return.
For example, some online posts claim people can earn a 50% profit within 15 days after investing only 10,000 baht.
Many scammers also post pictures of high-profile celebrities or businessmen on their pages and claim they are investors in the scheme, but do not provide details about their business plans.
These pages make special offers to urge people to quickly make an investment decision. The message is always the same: invest now or you will miss an opportunity to gain a healthy investment return.
According to the ministry, in some cases the scammers use the names of listed companies and symbols of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Stock Exchange of Thailand to cheat people eager to invest in gold. These scammers also claim they have advisors available to assist investors, while promising profits of 15-30% per day, said the DES Ministry.
￼What are the authorities doing about the problem?
The SEC recently asked business operators and those involved in the capital and digital asset markets to work together to notify companies of scammers using their names to cheat potential investors.
The regulator also advised people to check a list of authorised securities brokerage firms and investment advisors on the SEC Check First app, or at www.sec.or.th/licensecheck.
Recently DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said the ministry will seek a court order this month to close Facebook services in Thailand, accusing the operator of failing to block fraudulent ads on the site.
This is a critical issue as many big corporations and famous people had their names and images used to create fake content to lure people for investment, Mr Chaiwut said.
Prae Dumrongmongcolgul, country director for Meta in Thailand, said earlier the company acknowledges the uptick in scams and is using artificial intelligence to detect them and take them down immediately when discovered.
Last week the Royal Thai Police warned that online scammers are distributing false ads for the 10,000-baht digital wallet scheme, a policy proposed by the Pheu Thai Party.
Pol Gen Sompong Chingduang, a special advisor to the police, said some online scammers have developed a mobile app called “Digital Wallet”, mimicking Pheu Thai’s populist scheme.
The fraudulent app tricks victims into believing they can receive the 10,000 baht in digital money if they install it. People that install the app then receive a text message linking them to a Line mobile app that is actually malware capable of accessing their financial information via their phones, according to the police.
The DES Ministry said it contacted Google Play Store, asking it to take down the app.
According to the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, from March 2022 to May 31, 2023, there were 296,243 cases reported, an average of 525 per day, with damage of 40 billion baht, or 74 million baht per day.
The most popular scams were for online sales and service, numbering 100,000 cases, deceptive money transfers (36,896 cases) and invitations for joint investment via computer systems (33,517 cases).
￼How do cybercriminals send fraudulent links to the public?
Scammers send links to people they can inadvertently click on that can download malicious files that pose a risk of exploitation for financial gain without the recipients’ knowledge.
The scammers use various methods to send these links, with seven main channels identified.
1. Fake SMS: Scammers send links to people claiming they received a loan, won a prize in a contest, or need to register to claim a privilege. These messages deceive people into providing personal information and installing unwanted files.
2. Fake Line accounts: Scammers create fake Line Official Accounts using genuine-looking profile pictures. They pretend to be police, banks, government agencies or private companies, tricking victims into transferring money or divulging sensitive information by clicking on the links.
3. Fake emails: Scammers impersonate companies and send emails demanding payment for unpaid invoices, often including links to fake websites. Victims are lured into providing personal data and conducting payment transactions.
4. Fake websites: The sites often pose as government agencies or private companies, deceiving users into paying for various services and tricking them into downloading apps that drain their bank accounts.
5. Links under comments or virus hoaxes: Scammers create news articles or video clips with link previews resembling reputable media, aiming to make people believe they come from reliable sources. This tactic is used to share links that are untrustworthy.
6. Ads on social media and websites: Some untrustworthy websites use misleading ads, including those related to gambling or deceptive notifications, to entice users into clicking on links, even embedding malware.
7. Unknown source applications: Apps of unknown origin provide download links directly, bypassing official app stores that offer verification. These apps could be fake or imitate legitimate ones, often leading users astray, especially when dealing with loan, gambling or fraudulent dating apps that cause significant financial losses.
According to the Online Fraud and Complaint Centre operated by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), from January 2022 to April 2023 the top complaint was online trading/shopping fraud, with 49,352 cases, followed by illegal websites and cyber-attacks.
Most of these fraudulent cases lure buyers to pay for products and do not deliver the products, or deliver an incomplete set of products. The products range from unique plants to concert tickets.
￼What are the common patterns or tricks used by call centre scammers?
1. Tricking mobile phone users to download their links on their phones, enabling the scammers to use remote control apps to transfer users’ funds to their accounts.
2. Impersonating officials from state organisations and falsely claiming users are involved in fraudulent schemes, alleging they opened multiple phone numbers for deceptive purposes.
3. Impersonating police officers to deceive people into divulging personal information and falsely alleging people of opening accounts for money laundering.
4. Impersonating postal officials to notify people of delayed parcels or items returned from shipping companies, then demanding related tax payments for these parcels.
5. Impersonating Revenue Department officials to coerce tax payments or lure people into downloading deceptive apps.
6. Impersonating officials from the Department of Business Development, coercing people to download deceptive apps and asking for personal information.
￼How can people detect fake apps?
Tricking people into downloading certain apps is a technique utilised by cybercriminals worldwide for data hacking and online financial fraud. ETDA recommends simple methods to determine whether a downloaded app can be used for deception.
Apps that are not downloaded through the Apple Store or Play Store have a high likelihood of potential use for cyber data manipulation, said the agency. If the link of an app doesn’t begin with “https://” after accessing it, it might be a website used for data manipulation, according to ETDA.
The agency also recommends to avoid using public WiFi when downloading apps or entering personal information on websites.
￼How can people report online crime or scams?
People can report online crimes related to technology, such as online fraud, at local police stations or Technology Crime Suppression Centers under the Royal Thai Police via phone number 1441 or 081 866 3000, or at the website: https://thaipoliceonline.com.
However, scammers may create fake complaint channels and websites to lure victims, according to the authorities. Victims are advised to thoroughly verify the authenticity of these channels before communicating with state agencies.