CYBER crime police arrested a gang of drivers who have been going around Bangkok and its vicinity and sending text messages with fake financial institution links to mobile phones by using Stingrays, of false base stations, and had stolen over 175 million baht from their victims, TV Channel 7 said this evening (May 25).
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had alerted the police last March that a large number of this device, also called IMSI catcher, rogue base station and cell site simulator, had entered Thailand.
Regardless of the name they all mean the same thing: A device which intentionally sets out to impersonate a genuine base station – very often, as could be assumed, as part of some wrongdoing from unauthorised surveillance to communication sabotage and unsolicited advertising, Ericsson.com explained.
Arrested were Mr. Suksan (surname withheld), 40, and six of his accomplices from a vehicle they were driving around to send scam text messages. Seized from them were a total of four vehicles fitted with an equal number of Stingrays.
Suksan, who confessed to the charges filed against him, said he had been employed by an acquaintance for 80,000 baht a month. All he had to do was switch on the Stingray to send out the text messages with the victims’ phone numbers not required as this is a method of intercepting the signal from the real antenna.
A Stingray can send up to 20,000 messages a day and costs millions of baht.
From March to May this year this gang of drivers has been roaming around Bangkok and adjacent provinces to send text messages with a fake link in the name of a financial institution, the Revenue Department or the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to nearby mobile phones. Should an unsuspecting user click the link the scammers would install an app and clean out their bank accounts.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Worawat Watnakornbancha, cyber police chief, said Stingrays are normally used in a disaster where mobile phone signals are unavailable or by the US secret service to intercept information.
However, the FBI sent a warning last March that not only has a large number of this device entered Thailand it was found that they were being used to send links to online gambling sites.
Pol. Lt. Gen. Worawat added that Stingrays were previously used in border areas with signals transmitted to Thailand from neighbouring countries. However after moves to control their signals, the cybercriminals moved their devices into Thailand to directly scam the people of this country.
The military will be asked whether Stingrays are a military device or a weapon and if so the suspects will be slapped with additional charges.
Mr. Taiyarat Wiriyasirikul, acting secretary-general of National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission, said this device is prohibited by law with the general public not allowed to use it under any circumstances.
National Police Chief Pol. Gen. Damrongsak Kittipraphat inspecting seized Stingrays and a vehicle found carrying this device. Photos: Thai Rath