Police freeze bank account of Bhutanese living in Bangkok after two duped in financial fraud

The Thimphu Police have frozen a bank account belonging to a Bhutanese residing in Bangkok following a freezing order from the court. In an investigation, police found out that his account was used in allegedly duping two Bhutanese seeking foreign currencies in exchange for ngultrum.   

It so happened that a Bhutanese man living in Australia planned to exchange Bhutanese currency into Australian dollars or AUD. He encountered another person on social media who claimed to be a Bhutanese having Australian dollars for exchange. After the person gave him an account number, he transferred Nu 116,000 to the account.

However, after the transaction, he did not receive Australian dollars in return. Instead, the person on social media disappeared. This particular incident was reported to the police last month.

Similarly, a Bhutanese student studying in Bangkok was allegedly duped in a currency exchange scam. In this case, the student met another person on social media who claimed to be a Bhutanese student having US dollars for exchange. Eventually, he transferred over Nu 72,000 to the individual but did not receive US dollars in return. The case was reported to the police in February this year.

Meanwhile, the police told BBS that scammers in both cases, alleged foreigners, hacked into social media accounts of two Bhutanese citizens phished their bank account details. Using social media accounts, the scammers sent the account numbers of the two Bhutanese individuals to the other two Bhutanese men seeking foreign currencies.

Further, during the investigation, the police found that the Bhutanese individuals whom the victims interacted with were not aware of the incidents. However, both individuals involved in the cases stated that they did receive messages about amounts being deposited into their accounts, but they claimed that the amounts were withdrawn within a few minutes.

The police said that the amounts obtained through criminal proceeds in both scam cases were eventually deposited into a BOB account belonging to a Bhutanese man living in Thailand who deals in cryptocurrency. Upon police inquiry, he told police that he was also unaware of the alleged crime. However, he told police that he thought the amount he received was for selling cryptocurrency. Further, he reported to the police that he received threat messages from the hackers as he did not release cryptocurrencies upon learning about the incidents.

The cases are still under investigation.

Financial frauds are on the rise in the country. In Thimphu alone, the police have recorded 45 such cases since 2023, leading to financial losses of over nine million ngultrum.

The police said the most common fraud reported to them is related to hacking bank accounts using one-time passwords (OTPs) for scams in the country.

Meanwhile, the police are urging Bhutanese travelling or residing overseas to exercise caution when exchanging currency and remain vigilant, use measures to secure one’s banking apps and verify the authenticity of online interactions to avoid falling victim to money scams.

Kinzang Lhadon

Edited by Kipchu 

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