2 Hong Kong men arrested inside Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok for sending fake SMS messages to deceive shoppers

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10th April 2024 – (Bangkok) Two men from Hong Kong have been apprehended by the police in Bangkok for possessing a sophisticated mobile device used to send fraudulent SMS text messages. The suspects, identified as Yip (44) and Lee (26), were arrested on Monday at 6pm inside the Siam Paragon mall with the assistance of mobile-phone operator Advanced Info Service (AIS), according to Pol Maj Gen Sathit Prom-uthai, commander of Cyber Crime Investigation 3.

The suspects were found in possession of a mobile false base station and four mobile phones. A false base station, also referred to as a femtocell, is a device capable of imitating legitimate cellphone towers. Criminal organisations, particularly call-centre gangs, exploit false base stations to send fake SMS messages to mobile phones within range of the fake tower. The messages deceive recipients into clicking on malicious links, which can enable the gangs to remotely control victims’ handsets and steal funds from their bank accounts.

AIS alerted the Cyber Crime Investigation 3 division about a potential false base station detected within the shopping mall. In response, police officers were dispatched to investigate. The officers observed the two suspects walking together, with one carrying a heavy backpack. After monitoring their behaviour and finding it suspicious, the police approached the suspects, identified themselves, and requested to inspect the bag. The false base station device was discovered inside.

The arrested individuals claimed they had been asked by a friend to carry the bag without knowledge of its contents. They entered Thailand through the Sadao border checkpoint in the province of Songkhla on 30th March and were permitted to stay until 28th April. The suspects had been residing in a hotel located in Bangkok’s Bang Rak district and had left the hotel on Monday at 9am, allegedly to target large shopping malls and send fake SMS messages to deceive shoppers.

Authorities are now working to determine if the arrested individuals had higher-ranking associates or if they were affiliated with a criminal gang. The charges against them include importing a communication device without permission, collaborating to establish an unauthorized telecommunication station, and using a telecommunication frequency without permission.