Call-centre scammers bought into bitcoins

A police officer looks at a chart showing suspects involved in the fraud and call centre scam, at the national police head office in Pathumwan. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

An Indonesian and two Thais have been arrested for operating a call centre scam, allegedly impersonating government officials and tricking people into transferring money to the gang.

Police are hunting for another four accomplices who are still at large. All seven suspects are wanted on arrest warrants.

The arrested suspects were identified by police as Tommy Wu, an  Indonesian arrested at a house in Rarm Intra area of Bangkok, and Jirawat Klombang and Jirapat Kanarujinanon. They were apprehended in Chiang Mai and charged with fraud and impersonating government officials. 

Police also seized more than 100 items as evidence – mobile phones, notebook computers, 77 bankbooks,  and credit cards.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said Mr Wu had enticed 7-8 Thais into his gang to operate a call centre using the Philippines and neighbouring countries as the base for their crimes.

Gang members would call intended victims in Thailand, pretending to be an official from the Post Office, the Department of Special Investigation or the police, and threatening to put them behind bars bcau they were found to be involved in organised crime. 

The victims were told to transfer money to the gang’s account to help prove their innocence and avoid arrest.

Police said the money was transferred to the two arrested Thai suspects, who spent it to buy bitcoins and transferred their ownership to Mr Wu.

Acting deputy chief of the Tourism Bureau Surachet Hakpan said various police units coordinated on this raid. Police also worked with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) to search 10 premises, which led to the seizure of 77 bank accounts holding deposits of around 77 million baht, six cars and two properties. The total seized assets were worth around 120 million baht.

He warned that people who agree to open bank accounts for use in scams should immediately cease doing so, or face legal action.

Peerapat Ingpongphan, a director of Amlo, said the office would return approximately 2 million baht to four victims within two weeks. The office was now monitoring 400,000 accounts nationwide that had suspicious transactions. Those accounts would be examined to prevent them being used as a channel for fraud. 

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