Gang Activity in Thailand and the Most Common Tourist Scams
Date: 12 November 2018
A common feature of Gang Activity in Thailand are the various scam operations. Such activities appear to target all within the country and can take many forms depending on the target. Travel to or work in Thailand will PROBABLY require greater understanding of this threat and would be an essential item of preparation before entering the country.
This Intelligence Report on Thailand is intended to analyse the threats tracked by Intelligence Fusion; those being Direct Weapons, Suicide/Complex Attacks, Indirect Weapons, Air, Maritime, Grenades, Protests, Criminality, Hazards and Other. This report aims to provide an overview of what has been happening, and provide analysis that contributes to answering the following IRs:
- What threats exist in Thailand?
- How do these threats continue to exist?
- What are the issues behind these threats?
- What significant events will affect the country’s situation and threats?
Incidents logged for Thailand from 01 OCT 2018 – Present have seen previous reported trends on overall incident activity continue. Of particular note though have been a number of incidents where Thailand’s police have arrested gangs that do not fit under drug trafficking or the ongoing insurgency in Thailand’s ‘Deep South’ provinces.
COMMENT. These incidents of Gang Activity come under the broader incident category of Crime or ‘Criminality.’ Crime presents the biggest threat in Thailand. As shown below, for 2018 so far it makes up 56% of incidents logged on Intelligence Fusion’s platform. With the second biggest threat – ‘Other’ – totalling just over 50% less in total incidents and all other incident types even less prevalent, it can be easily concluded that Crime incidents are the main contributor to incidents occurring across the whole country; especially the areas of highest activity indicated in yellow and amber (Intel Fusion Ref). COMMENT ENDS.
A closer look at the Crime incidents occurring in Thailand – displayed below – shows that Gang Activity is among the smaller Crime threats; Gang-related incidents for 2018 only make up 5% of total Crime activity occurring in Thailand. The vast majority of Crime relates to general Arrests which cannot be labelled under other categories, Drug Trafficking and Murders (Intel Fusion Ref). However, the majority of these incidents share common traits in the kind of operation being conducted and who is involved.
This report will aim to provide a background describing these incidents for 2018 and previous reporting on Gang Threats in Thailand; and then compare it additional Open Source reporting in order to provide a clearer picture on the nature of Gang Threats within Thailand.
These incidents of Gang Activity are based on Open Sources detailing the arrests of gangs conducting various types of online scam operations. Imagery from recorded incidents indicates these gangs are well resourced and are excellent at using technology for their operations.
The most common types of scams that have appeared in reports for logging incidents are:
- Romance Scams – these operations have focussed on targeting Thai women. The perpetrators have often been groups of Nigerian men and Thai women. The Nigerians will set up fake online profiles pretending to be Western males and approach Thai women online. They will convince these women that they are in love with them and say they want to send them gifts in order to gain details such as their full name and address. Once this information is obtained, the Thai women will approach the scam victim posing as law enforcement or customs stating the gits have been held up in customs pending the payment of taxes to allow the gifts to come into Thailand. The scam victim will pay the Thai national posing as the customs or law enforcement official; thus making the scam operation successful (McCabe and Harrington, 2018; The Nation, 2018; Thai Visa, 2018).
- Macau Scams – The origins of behind the name of this kind of scam vary. Gangs conducting Macau Scam operations have often consisted of Malaysians and Thai nationals. This kind of scam operates by the scammers posing as officials such as police or bank officers. Through phoning the victims using VoIP, the scammer will convince the victim their bank account has been linked to money laundering or other kinds of illicit activity which has resulted in their bank account being frozen. The scammer will convince the victim that by transferring their money to another account, they can regain access to their money. This bank account is naturally an account the scammer can access in order to draw funds. Other versions of Macau Scams occurring in Thailand have been Macau Scams where the scammers have set up false convinced people to transfer money into accounts supposedly for the construction of Buddhist temples or places of worship (The Nation, 2018; Meneses, 2017; McCabe and Harrington, 2018).
ADDITIONAL OPEN SOURCE REPORTING
Further research into the threat of scams in Thailand has shown the threat of scams in Thailand goes way beyond the recorded incidents of Romance Scams and Macau Scams. Online searches for scam threats across in Thailand have shown there are various types of scams that occur against tourists. The methods utilised can vary but among the most common are (TravelScams.org, 2018; Sleight, 2018; Quint, 2009; Newton, 2018):
- The Jewellery Scam – The concept of the jewellery scam could be used with the local ‘export centre,’ ‘factory outlet store’ or ‘I have a friend who has a shop’. These scams usually target large tour groups and have been employed against Chinese tour groups. They work by tour guides, tuk tuk drivers or taxi drivers taking tourists to stores reportedly selling cheap jewellery which can fetch a considerable amount of money back in the tourist’s home country. The tour guide, tuk tuk driver or tour guide will usually collect a commission from taking tourists to these stores.
- Tuk Tuks / Taxis – This kind of scam is well-known to exist in Phuket. Tuk Tuks are often three-cylinder Daihatsu open mini-vans. Tuk Tuks or general taxis in Thailand can usually become very expensive to use as they can charge quite a considerable amount of money; this occurs from the absence of or tampering of their meters. Tuk tuk drivers can utilise extortion tactics such as taking tourists to the outskirts of towns and charging large sums of money to take tourists back or can be utilised as a setup for other scams mentioned in this report.
- The ‘Attraction’s Closed’ Scam – This kind of scam operates on Thai nationals congregating at attractions popular with tourists. These people will approach tourists and inform them the attraction is closed. If the tourist believes this person, they will be informed that an alternative attraction that is older, bigger, more spectacular and nearby. On the way to this unheard-of attraction, the tourist will be taken to jewellery stores and markets and offered any number of supposed bargains. This kind of scam works in conjunction with the jewellery scam.
- The Jet Ski Rental Scam - Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Hua Hin are among the most common locations for this kind of scam. Jet Skis will be offered for hire with little to no paperwork being required. However, when returned to the owners, the owners offering the jet skis for hire will begin to point out scratches or other items of damage and demand large sums of money for repairs. In these situations, it can become very heated and other nearby jet ski owners can gather around and begin to threaten the scam victim.
- The Fake Consulate Scam - This scam targets tourists and expats crossing the border from Thailand to a neighbouring country – particularly Cambodia – in a taxi or tuk tuk. The tourist/expat will be driven past signs reading “Cambodian Consulate.” The tourist/expat will be dropped out the front of these buildings with people offering simple and convenient visas for a large fee. This scam can cause considerable problems for the victims when they attempt to cross back into Thailand via legitimate border posts.
COMMENT. The above scams are but a few of the types that operate in Thailand. What can be seen from the above is the threat posed by scams can target tourists/expats and Thai nationals alike. The sources utilised for this report alone point to a variety that exist in Thailand which can work on their own or be setups for another type of scam; tuk tuks or closed attraction scams being used to setup jewellery store scams for example.
Comparing the incidents of Scams/Gang Activity recorded on the Intelligence Fusion platform with additional open source reporting would indicate the Macau or Romance Scams gangs being arrested by police appear to be among the more sophisticated types of scam being detected and reported on in Thailand. The background reporting used to outline other types of scams operating in Thailand would indicate the low statistics in comparison to Trafficking, Arrests or other kinds of Crime does not accurately reflect how widespread scam operations and wider Gang Activity can be.
The details mentioned in the sources utilised for this report provide a number of recommendations and indicators for mitigating against the threat against scams / scam gangs in Thailand. COMMENT ENDS.
|Less than 50% chance||50% chance or greater||75% chance or greater||95% chance or greater|
Gang Activity in Thailand has been among the lesser threats in Thailand based on incidents recorded. However, this is PROBABLY due to the lack of available open source reporting on wider activities of by gangs across the country – drug trafficking excepted.
However, what is a common feature of Gang Activity in Thailand are the various scam operations. Such activities appear to target all within the country and can take many forms depending on the target. Tourists and Expats will be the targets for the more rudimentary forms such as Jewellery, Attractions Closed or Jet Ski Scams. Thai nationals will be the most likely targets for the more sophisticated Macau or Romance Scams and will feature a number of foreigners operating the scams with Thai nationals being the ‘face’ of the scam.
Overall, travel to or work in Thailand will PROBABLY require greater understanding of this threat and would be an essential item of preparation before entering the country.
McCabe, M. & Harrington, D. (2018) Intelligence Fusion Platform - Asia [online]. Available from: https://www.intelligencefusion.co.uk/ (Accessed 8 November 2018).
Meneses, J. P. (2017) Macau Scam . . . Or Malaysian scam? [online]. Available from: http://www.macaubusiness.com/macau-scam-malaysian-scam/ (Accessed 6 November 2018).
The Nation (2018) Focus still on Nigerians from Tourist Police – Romance scams [online]. Available from: https://thethaiger.com/news/bangkok/focus-still-on-nigerians-from-tourist-police-romance-scams (Accessed 7 November 2018).
Newton, T. (2018) Top 10 Scams In Thailand [online]. Available from: https://thethaiger.com/thai-life/top-10-scams-phuket-thailand (Accessed 19 October 2018).
Quint, S. (2009) Scam & Spam Blog: Scam phone numbers in Thailand. Scam & Spam Blog [online]. Available from: http://somchaiq.blogspot.com/2009/03/scam-phone-numbers-in-thailand-country.html (Accessed 4 November 2018). [online]. Available from: http://somchaiq.blogspot.com/2009/03/scam-phone-numbers-in-thailand-country.html (Accessed 4 November 2018).
Sleight, S. (2018) How to Avoid Scams in Bangkok Thailand. DeathByVlog [online]. Available from: https://deathbyvlog.com/how-to-avoid-scams-in-bangkok-thailand-most-common-scam/ (Accessed 4 November 2018). [online]. Available from: https://deathbyvlog.com/how-to-avoid-scams-in-bangkok-thailand-most-common-scam/ (Accessed 4 November 2018).
Thai Visa (2018) Big Joke Takes Down Four Nigerian ‘Romance Scammers’ - and 16 Thai Associates Too [online]. Available from: https://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/1063468-big-joke-takes-down-four-nigerian-romance-scammers-and-16-thai-associates-too/ (Accessed 7 November 2018).
The Nation (2018) Thai Cops Foil Malaysian-Led Macau Scam Ring [online]. Available from: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/11/03/thai-cops-foil-msianled-macau-scam-ring/ (Accessed 7 November 2018).
TravelScams.org (2018) 33 Most Common Tourist Scams in Thailand [online]. Available from: https://travelscams.org/asia/common-tourist-scams-thailand/ (Accessed 4 November 2018).