These gang members tend to enter the kingdom as tourists but overstay their visas while operating call centre scams and credit card and passport fraud from rented condominiums or houses.
Police have been alerted to at least three such illegal operations in the past year. In response, any tourists caught overstaying will soon face being blacklisted, effectively banning them from re-entering Thailand for a certain period of time.
CSD deputy chief Pol Col Phanthana Nutchanat pointed to the arrest of members of a credit card and passport fraud gang on Jan 1 as a case in point.
The gang had five members, four males – Zu Jian, 42, Cui Yuanchang, 31, Tan Guoping, 40, and Liu Shijin, 42 – and one female, Zhu Chupoing, 53. Police estimated their activities had caused financial damage worth some B3 million.
Up to 182 fake credit cards, card readers and equipment used to make credit cards were among items seized by the officers during the operation.
This type of crime is growing as the number of Chinese people using credit cards has increased over the past three years, Pol Col Phanthana said.
Previously, Europeans and Malaysians were the usual suspects, and it is believed they taught some Chinese people how to make fake credit cards so they could tap into the growing Chinese market, he said.
These people hack online accounts and steal details from credit card transaction records at shops in China. They then enter the information into fake cards which are used to buy high-value items in Thailand such as gold, said Pongsit Chaichutpornsuk, Siam Commercial Bank's executive vice-president for cyber crime prevention.
The gang also makes fake passports which are used together with the fake credit cards to purchase valuables in Thailand.
Another case that came up on the police’s radar was more sophisticated – the call centre scam.
Twenty-seven Chinese and Taiwanese nationals allegedly colluded to lure victims in China into transferring money to them. The plots varied from pretending to be bank officials checking credit information to tax officials offering rebates. They conned victims into either sending money in the form of “admin fees” or supplying their bank details.
Police arrested 20 men and seven women at a house in Prachaniwet housing estate in Chatuchak district on Dec 24. As with the fake credit card gang, these suspects chose Thailand as their new criminal base following tougher crackdowns by Chinese police. Their call centre scam caused damages valued at more than B100 million, according to police estimates.
Pol Col Phanthana said these criminal suspects are crafty as they manage to evade the police both here and in their own country and, at the same time, go to great lengths to make their operations appear legitimate.
“These [call centre] suspects have developed their skills to a high level. They have been trained to speak convincingly and memorise banking jargon,” he said.
Also, they do not always need many collaborators in their secret plots. Only a few persons can swindle millions of baht from victims.
Another case that hit media headlines followed the arrest of Jiang Sulian and He Ying, both 30, on Sept 9.
The pair disguised themselves as visitors at a jewellery fair at Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi.
They asked for a closer look at a B10-million diamond and returned a fake one to a sales representative. Ms Jiang had swallowed the real diamond, which was later retrieved by doctors.
This crime prompted stepped up efforts to monitor tourists from the southern Chinese province of Hunan, as many jewel thieves are believed to come from this region, Pol Col Phanthana said.
In addition to these three major crimes, there have also been reported cases of Chinese people using fake identity cards to pretend they are Thais so they can work and carry out monetary transactions.
One way to prevent these crimes from recurring is to act against tourists who overstay their visas, Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Natthon Phrosunthon said.
Pol Lt Gen Natthon said the Interior Minister will issue a law, which will take effect on March 20, that will blacklist violators and ban them from entering Thailand for between one and 10 years, depending on how long they have overstayed.
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