Don’t fall for Chinese New Year scam, warns Thai police

Thai Cyber Police sent out a warning about a Chinese New Year-themed online scam after dozens of victims reported having their bank accounts hacked and drained.

Yesterday, Thailand’s Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) issued a warning via Facebook about a ‘Free Red Envelope’ scam.

During the upcoming Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year – holidays, one popular tradition is for younger family members to receive red envelopes (called “Angpao” in Thai) containing money.

Scammers are getting into the festive mood and sending SMS text messages to random phone numbers telling them they have won a free Angpao.

The message tells the “winner” to click on a link to claim their monetary prize, which takes them to a website that asks for personal and financial information.

More than 20 victims reported falling victim to the Chinese New Year scam. The scammers hacked their bank accounts and transferred out everything they could.

Once the hackers hit the daily transfer limit, they waited until the next day and stole more money.

Most of the victims claim that they didn’t click a link or input their information.

Police investigated the Chinese New Year scam further and found over 100 victims, collectively scammed out of millions of baht.

In another scam, hackers pose as famous online shopping platforms and send SMS messages offering special discounts for customers if they click the link.

Upon clicking the link, the victims of the online shopping scam also had their bank accounts drained – with known total damages totalling hundreds of thousands of baht so far.

Yesterday, the CCIB advised the public to exercise caution when charging their smartphones in public after a Thai man’s Android phone was hacked at the weekend.

The CIB believe hackers have found a way of altering charging cables to steal personal information from phone users.

In a smart move to combat call centre scams last July, Thailand’s National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) purposefully added the prefix +697 to IP calls to help people identify potential scammers.

If a number starting with +697 rings you, don’t answer. Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) says it is most likely a scam call centre trying to swindle you out of money.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.