Commercial banks which fail to properly authenticate people who ask to open bank accounts are to blame for the arrest of a young woman unfairly linked to a call centre gang which allegedly opened bank accounts in her name, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda says.
The case caught the public’s attention after Nicha Kiartthanapaiboon, 24, on Tuesday asked the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) to track down people who used her ID card to open nine accounts with seven banks, which were used to handle the proceeds of a call centre scam.
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Nicha Kiartthanapaiboon, 24, (left) shows the evidence police missed when they accused her in a fraud scheme. She has asked Crime Suppression Division police to catch the real crooks who opened bank accounts using her lost ID card. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
She told police her purse and ID card disappeared in October last year after which she suspects the card fell into the hands of a gang. She also showed an image from a CCTV camera at a bank in which a woman wearing a mask uses her ID card to open a bank account.
The issue has sparked public questions about bank security and why they allow people wearing face coverings to open accounts.
Gen Anupong said the ministry’s Department of Provincial Administration (Dopa), which handles citizen ID cards, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with banks about collecting ID information, which can be used by banks to verify their customers.
If the banks want further information, they must have a card-reading device or computer software which could link to the ministry.
Most Thai banks did not use this channel to verify their customers. Only foreign banks in Thailand use this system, according to the minister.
Gen Anupong insisted the ministry’s system is sound and nothing more needs to be done.
“The system has been in place for a long time but you can find out how many Thai banks access it to verify customer identities,” said Gen Anupong.
Dopa director-general Arthit Boonyasophat said the department had inked MoUs with 56 organisations, including 10 commercial banks. The database service has been provided since 2015.
He also urged people who lose ID cards to report to registrars immediately so they can re-issue the document. Once the new card comes out, the old one is automatically terminated.
Anupong Paojinda, the Minister of Interior, says banks are to blame for a case where a woman was almost jailed over a stolen ID card. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Thai Bankers Association chairman Pridi Daochai said a new system for ID verification could be rolled out by banks in the middle of this year. It has been developed by several organisations with work under way for some time, he said.
The new system would be more effective than the Interior Ministry’s card-reading devices, Mr Pridi said, adding it can also be used to verify the identities of people who use online banking services through mobile applications or blockchain technology, and this could bolster customer confidence.
Banks, meanwhile, must toughen their rules on authenticating clients, he added.
Regarding Ms Nicha’s case, she told the CSD that she found her purse containing her ID and ATM cards had gone missing after she travelled by bus from Nonthaburi to the Lak Song area in Bangkok on Oct 6 last year.
She immediately alerted the bank to block her ATM card and went to a nearby district office to report the ID card loss. She applied for a new ID card the following day.
She later learned that on Dec 28 she had been summonsed by the police. She was not at home to receive the summons and police later went to her workplace to arrest her. Again she was not in the office at the time.
She decided to go to see the CSD on Saturday after learning someone had used her lost ID card to commit financial crimes.
Ms Nicha said she was sent to Tak police station and later taken to court, with police seeking her detention. She was initially refused bail, but was eventually released on bail the following day. Ms Nicha insisted she had nothing to do with the call centre scam.
Deputy police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said Tak police brought charges against Ms Nicha after another woman lodged a police complaint that she was swindled into wiring 1.37 million baht into bank accounts under Ms Nicha’s name.
The victim said foreigners contacted her through Facebook and said they would transfer money to Thailand to buy land. They asked her to pay the fees on their behalf. She transferred the money to the bank accounts under the name of Ms Nicha several times, the total amounting to 1.37 million baht.
A summons was issued for Ms Nicha, but she failed to show up, so police sought a warrant for her arrest, the spokesman said. Ms Nicha was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.
Meanwhile, Pol Lt Gen Tawitchat Palasak, the commander of Provincial Police Region 6, in charge of Tak police, said a committee chaired by a deputy Tak police commander will look into Ms Nicha’s case. If she is found not to be involved, police will drop the charge, he said.