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Cameroonian, Thai woman held in alleged email scam

Company duped into wiring Bt6 million into gang's account, police say

POLICE HAVE arrested a Cameroonian man and a Thai woman for allegedly conspiring to hack a Thai construction company's computer system and send bogus e-mails to get the firm's business partner in Japan to wire Bt6 million into the gang's bank account.

Pol Colonel Somporn Daengdee, deputy Technology Crime Suppression commander, told a press conference yesterday that Tambe Echu Elvis Ako and Nuanchan Charit would be charged with conspiring to forge documents, loading the faulty information into a computer system and violating the Computer Crime Act.

The couple maintained their innocence.

The women claimed the account was opened for their previous business of hiring migrant workers, while the Cameroonian said the money was wired to him by a friend and he had no idea about the crime.

After the Thai company's complaint, a two-week police investigation found that the juristic person's bank account was opened in April with Nuanchan authorised to withdraw from it.

Surveillance footage showed Ako withdrawing cash from the account at an automated teller machine in the Silom area of Bangkok.

Suspecting that the couple were involved in a gang whose activities involved sending fake e-mails and registering a shell company that would open an account to receive the illicit money, police issued arrest warrants for them.

Police believe there were more foreigners involved because the e-mails came from a Nigerian IP address.



'Always double-check'

Local companies with partners in other countries should check e-mail authenticity every time, have other ways to communicate besides e-mail and promptly report and re-check any change of bank-account details or suspicious money transfers, Somporn said.

Pol Colonel Yothin Tosa-nga from the same division said the month of June saw about 10 similar cases and each victim suffered losses to the tune of hundreds of thousands of baht.

The hacker gang usually changed the targeted company's e-mail address slightly to notify the partner about a change in bank-account details so if the partner didn't look closely it could fall for the scam.

In this case, the partner actually sent an e-mail to check with the Thai company about the account change, but the hacker intercepted the e-mail and replied to confirm the change, so the partner felt confident about wiring the money.

The Thai company didn't get the payment, so it sent an e-mail asking the partner about it and learned that the e-mails were hacked and the money was stolen from them, Yothin said.




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