June 25, 2024

Minister urges further advancements

Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau officials inspect the evidence confiscated from a fraudulent call centre syndicate following a raid in August of the previous year. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Online fraud damages amounted to 110 million baht per day in April, indicating a 26% decrease from 149 million baht per day in March, owing to authorities’ determined initiatives to suppress it.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had tasked relevant agencies on April 1 with delivering tangible outcomes of an intensified crackdown on pervasive online fraud within 30 days.

Notably, cases of online fraud rose to 992 in April from 855 in March due to an increase in channels available to victims for reporting incidents, said Prasert Jantararuangthong, Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES).

Despite a significant improvement in several key metrics, Mr Prasert expressed dissatisfaction with the overall figures. He underscored the accomplishment of having 16,158 illegal websites blocked in April this year, in collaboration with the relevant authorities. This is a considerable leap from a mere 600 websites blocked in the same month in 2023.

To efficiently combat online crime, the ministry and its counterparts are contemplating an AI-based system. In this regard, discussions are underway with executives from Microsoft Thailand to assist the government in its efforts to suppress online crime.

Investment scams involving securities, funds or digital assets via illegal websites and social platforms are the primary concern. These fraudulent activities could result in damages ranging from 30 to 70 million baht per case,” he cautions.

“The damage figures have shown a significant improvement compared to the previous year. Next week, the cabinet will receive a report detailing the accomplishments and progress of the crackdown,” stated Mr Prasert.

Authorities and organizations should persistently adhere to key measures against online fraud, illegal or suspect websites, mule SIM cards and mule bank accounts, and raising public awareness about these forms of fraud. There should also be efforts to prevent the public from falling prey to illegal investments and amendments to certain regulations or laws are needed, adds Mr Prasert.

Prosecutions related to online offenses surged to 6,458 cases in April from an average of 1,000 cases per month between January and March. The number of prosecutions for online gambling was 3,757 in April, compared to 1,200 cases per month between January and March. For mule accounts, there were 361 prosecutions in April, as opposed to 120 cases per month in the first quarter.

The Bank of Thailand and the Thai Bankers’ Association (TBA) suspended 300,000 accounts as part of measures to revoke and terminate mule accounts in recent months. Meanwhile, 112,699 accounts were suspended by the ministry and 318,298 by the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

The increase in prosecutions and account suspensions mirrors the effectiveness of the collaboration between the parties involved, Mr Prasert highlights. Further, he adds that all concerned parties have upped their efforts to mitigate the risk of online fraud, emphasizing the need for all agencies to report vital data such as suspect mule accounts, mule SIMs, URL/Line information for gambling websites or other relevant information to the Online Scam Operation Center.

Furthermore, the central bank and TBA are expected to promptly expunge mule accounts from the system. Measures are in place to regulate the opening of online or multiple accounts, requiring verification processes before such accounts can be approved.