Con artists are shifting to Facebook with scam investment deals, police warn
Police and finance experts are warning Thais to think twice before investing in deals advertised online, especially on Facebook, saying there have been over 24,000 complaints about online scams since March last year and these have cost unwitting investors more than 12 billion baht.
The warning was made at a joint press conference on Wednesday at the Royal Thai Police headquarters where representatives from the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Amata Corporation Plc joined police to underscore the importance of the warning.
Pol General Sompong Chingduang, a special advisor to the national police chief and head of the police committee on measures against technological crimes, and Pol Maj-General Chusak Khanadnit, commander of the High-Tech Crime Division, represented the Royal Thai Police at the press conference.
Sompong said victims have filed 300,000 complaints with police via online channels in fraud cases that caused damages worth 41 billion baht to victims from March 1 last year to July 31 this year.
Of the cases, over 24,000 (8.14%) were investment scams that cost unwitting investors about 12 billion baht – 35% of the total damage during the period.
Chusak said that in May and July this year, Facebook became the top medium for investment scams.
According to Chusak, the top five online portals used by scammers in May and July this year were:
- Facebook: 145 cases, damages worth 107.593 million baht
- Websites: 34 cases, damages worth 8.6 million baht
- Line: 7 cases, damages worth 8.15 million baht
- TikTok: 1 case, damage worth 60,000 baht
- Twitter: 1 case, damage worth 7,000 baht
Chusak said scammers used photos of executives of leading firms and logos, such as those of CP and Amata, as well as the logo of the Stock Exchange of Thailand to convince people to invest.
The scammers follow the same method. Initially, victims are asked to invest only 1,000 baht and promised returns of between 30-70%.
Once they take the bait and send a message via FB Messenger to find out more, chat bots lure them to join a Line group or Open Chat group where collaborators deceive them that they have earned a lot of money through the investment schemes.
The collaborators show money transfer slips to convince the victims.
In the initial phase, victims receive their investment back with interest.
In the second phase, they are invited to join a VIP group with only five or six members where they are promised even higher rates of return.
All other members in the group are crooks. Victims are told they cannot withdraw their investments because it could affect other members’ chance of making money.
In some cases, the victims end up losing large sums of money.
Dr Wiwat Krommadit, Amata CEO, said Amata was sorry that its name was used to create many FB pages to deceive Thais. He said Amata did not ignore the crimes and had collaborated with authorities to arrest many scammers.
Hetold Thais that Amata does not invite people to make online investments and the company’s authentic page is distinct to certify it is official.
Archinee Pattamasukhon, SEC assistant secretary-general, urged investors to check with the SEC about the names of listed companies.
Chusak added that scammers have also created false police online complaint receiving pages to further deceive victims.
He said the false pages bought advertisements on Facebook and Google, Bing and Safari search engines to bring victims to their pages.
The victims are lured to add Line accounts of con artists, who claim to be lawyers.
The fake lawyers claim that the victims’ money has been transferred outside the country. The victims are introduced to other crooks who claim to be IT experts.
The false IT staff claim they can hack into the platform of the scammers to retrieve the money victims invested. However, the victims must first open accounts with online gambling websites and deposit money in the accounts. The crooks say the old money will be added to the new deposit. Eventually, the victims lose even more money, Chusak concluded.
On Monday, the Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said his ministry would ask the courts to ban Facebook in Thailand after the company ignored scammer pages that bought advertisements from it.