The scourge of Chinese criminals entering Thailand illegally continues despite the coronavirus lockdown this year. In the last week, Immigration Bureau Police Chief Lieutenant General Sompong Chingduang called on the public to be vigilant and help police detect dangerous criminal enterprises by reporting suspicious foreigners and online activity to the police.

Despite the virus and the closure of Thailand’s borders, Chinese criminal gangs have continued to target the kingdom with online scams including illegal lending, gambling and investments schemes. The latest bust came on Saturday 12th December when police swooped on three Chinese people who stole millions of baht from Thai online banking users by creating their own banking app and convincing Siam Commercial Bank customers to input their login details.

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The Head of the Immigration Bureau Lieutenant General Sompong Chingduang gave disturbing details of a case where genuine online users in Thailand lost millions of baht when skilled Chinese fraudsters, who had built a highly deceptive look alike app, managed to convince users to input their login details including an OTP or one-time password code. Three Chinese nationals were arrested in Bangkok on December 12th last. The trio had entered Thailand illegally.

Three Chinese crooks were arrested by Immigration Bureau police last week for perpetrating a sophisticated online scam which targeted bank account holders with Siam Commercial Bank.

The fraud saw millions of baht drained from the bank accounts with the financial institution through the popular SCB Easy online banking system operated by the firm, one of Thailand’s leading commercial banks.

Public should report anything suspicious to assist police in quickly detecting such scams

Details of the case were given by Police Lieutenant General Sompong Chingduang last Tuesday as he appealed to the public to come forward if they noticed anything suspicious like this in the banking area or if they become suspicious of foreigners who continue to target Thailand and arrive here often through illegal border crossings.

The skill and breadth of expertise of such online fraud schemes make them more difficult to protect against, so police and banking firms are increasingly relying on old fashioned public vigilance to report anything suspicious before more people fall victim to the scams which are, essentially, traps for the unwary.

16 Chinese crossed into Thailand without ID in late November and were intercepted by the Thai Navy

In late November, a group of 16 Chinese nationals were intercepted entering Nong Khai on the Mekong River by the Royal Thai Navy’s Mekong Riverine Unit. All were without identification documents at all and were being smuggled into Thailand for nefarious purposes.

The first two Chinese arrested in last week’s police operation were tracked down to a house on Soi Charoenkrung 91 in the Bangkholaem district of the city. The raid took place on Saturday, December 12th.

At the location, police seized no less than 88 items including mobile phones, laptops, computers and a range of ATM cards and bank passbooks. On the same day, police arrested Pei Hong, a Chinese collaborator with the gang at a house in the Lat Phrao district of Bangkok.

The Immigration Bureau Chief, Lieutenant General Sompong, told the press that the Chinese gang had entered the kingdom illegally from Taiwan.

Fake online app that looked like part of the SCB Easy Banking network and fooled users into entering full login data including an OTP to access the accounts

The gang had created a fake online app which represented itself to users as a legitimate part of the SCB Easy Banking network. The app allowed users to ‘update’ their login data and security details which, of course, was fed to the gang members who promptly cleared out the accounts in question.

Users received an SMS from the app saying the SCB Easy Banking system was undergoing maintenance and requesting them to update their login details.

The app required users to supply all the necessary data that would be normally used in accessing their account and making transactions including, significantly, an OTP or one-time pin code.

Money was transferred into the controversial Tether cryptocurrency denominated in US dollars

Once a user had supplied the details, the gang would move fast by accessing the user’s bank account on the real SCB Banking system and transferring the funds. The funds were then laundered promptly and converted into a cryptocurrency called Tether denominated in US dollars.

Tether is a controversial cryptocurrency whose backers claim that each coin is worth one dollar. The currency has also been associated with several significant online hacks and thefts. 

In 2019, a lawyer who worked with the currency’s administrators claimed its reserves only supported $0.74 but nevertheless, in the course of 2019, the currency, at one point, outperformed Bitcoin in terms of volume traded.

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