The internet has emerged as a uplifting resource for most Thai women. Studies in Thailand show women leading the online race for dating, education and social interaction ahead of Thai men. But for some, the story is not quite so positive.
Sunkanya has been dating online for over five years now. Since she started dating online she has been visited by two different men from foreign countries at her home in Thailand's Roi Et province in the north eastern Thailand or Isaan, the
region where over 65% of Thai women who marry foreign men originate.
Sukanya's two visitors were elderly. An Austrian and a Belgian man. In both instances her visitor didn't stay more than a few days before moving on to the latest town or back to Bangkok. Sukanya is pretty but she is not as attractive as many of the
other Thai women online and she is a little older. However she is persistent and determined to meet a foreign husband.
Thai woman buys into the scam dream
Two years ago Sunkanya thought she had met the man of her dreams online. He was working for an international company based in the middle east, a little overweight but quite handsome. He seemed very warm. 'My heart was happy and I felt
joy, I did tell all my family and friends,' she recalls. She was to be disappointed but at the same time very lucky. The dream man online transpired to be a scammer like those who operate from Africa working with gang members in Thailand and
Malaysia. However at the time, for Sukanya, a simple Thai woman, the dream seem to go from better to better. Her dream lover from England (working in Saudi Arabia) explained to her that he had sent her a new laptop and a diamond ring. 'I was
was so happy and felt the excitement but also I am not a foolish woman so I asked my friends. The told me about the scam story and when the message came about paying money, I know already,' she explains to us. Because Sukanya was warned
by her friends she was not taken in by the scam despite initially buying in to the dream. the same involves sending a valuable package and duping customs fees of unsuspecting Thai women.
Online scammers story now familiar in Thailand
It is a story that can be heard all over Thailand where more and more Thai women are taking to the internet to meet foreign partners or perhaps find a foreign husband. Sukanya was lucky that she had a group of people who were aware of her
online activities. This is a key piece of advice given by Thailand's No. 1 dating site ThaiLoveLines. 'It is very important that Thai women particularly those who are more vulnerable but really all women should have a test group when dating online.
We recommend at least one partner, this could often by a sister, aunt or even mother. Someone the woman can confide in,' say Bill Mc Mahon, Security Manager with ThaiLoveLines.
Online scammers target all international dating sites
This warning comes as the scammers who target international dating sites have switched their tactics in Thailand. More and more, they targeting the Thai women while previously it was the foreign men. 'It's appalling to think that these women
who are often from very poor backgrounds are being targeted by these people,' says Bill Mc Mahon. 'It's when people online are opening their hearts to a potential partner that they become vulnerable and this makes this activity sickening and utterly
contemptible. The key solution to the threat is awareness among Thai women dating online.'
This is happening. There are now many online groups involving networks of Thai women who are working together online to combat these operators. 'We received at least one tip off a week from Thai women who sometimes are on the
lookout for these operators, ' says Mc Mahon.
Hidden danger of online scammers is relationship insecurity
The threats to Thai women are very real from this activity. Thai Police recently arrested a Thai woman assisting scammers based in Malaysia heading for the Malaysian border with nearly 1.8 millions baht ($60,000) which had just been
swindled from innocent Thai women online.
But there is a second danger as Bill Mc Mahon explains: 'Many men on ThaiLoveLines and Thai women became very suspicious understandably and often they lose confidence in the process entirely after coming in contact with these entities,
I tell all our users, who I speak with, that this activity targets all international dating sites and that at anytime perhaps under 1% of online users may be suspect but unfortunately, it is this 1% that is more active. However the important thing for users to
know is that once they are aware and heed our advice, they are perfectly safe and have nothing to lose.'
The irony is that Thai women dating online who become insecure about the online dating process lose the opportunity it presents for a life changing relationship and the exploration of new horizons. This was not the case for Sukunya in Roi Et
Thai woman uses judgment when faced with security fear
Two years after her online scam scare, in July 2014 Sukunya was talking online with an older German man from Dusseldorf when he asked her if she would like to take their relationship further. She said yes and he told her that he would visit
her in Thailand. Two weeks before his arrival he asked her if she could meet in Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi airport. She was worried. She had heard about another well publicised scam being highlighted by the Royal Thai Police. This is where a
foreign scammer will pretend that he has been detained at the airport and call upon his Thai female victim to gain his release from the airport by paying a fee in a hurry.
'My family were suspicious. They did not want me to travel to Bangkok in the first place and many of my cousins told me about the scam. But I did not think it was a problem. I know Henrik was a sincere man so I was there and to welcome him,'
Sukanya was right in her judgment. Henrik paid her for her expenses in coming to Bangkok and took her shopping before they returned to her village in Roi Et. One week later they were engaged and Henrik bought her gold and a diamond ring.
He is due back for Christmas and they will be married in 2015. 'I think every person must be responsible and decide for themselves but I was not always sure also you know,' she admits.
'When you think about the background of many Thai women like Sukanya from Isaan and also now women in Bangkok. For any Thai woman when she goes online to seek a love partner it is a big decision, very personal. In Thailand it takes
some courage to decide to do this. These people who prey on the Thai women and the foreign men also are very bad human beings. I think many people in Thailand welcome the activities of the Royal Thai Police in recent times and they are
happy to see them catching these despicable men' says Carla Boonkong in Bangkok. Carla is a journalist who writes regularly about Thai women and their use of the internet to find love around the world. She welcomes Thai women who have
formed networks online and on Facebook to combat the menace
Police in Thailand detain Thai woman helping online scammers
The extent and sophistication of online efforts to scam Thai women can be seen from a 2014 news story in Thailand. The Royal Thai Police arrested a Thai woman making a run for the Malaysian border with Thailand with 1.8 million baht in
Cash ($60,000) after ripping off other Thai women in conjunction with a gang of Nigerian men based in Kuala Lumpur.
The Thai woman Kessanee Mahayothee, 34, was arrested in the Thai province of Songkhla near the border. A Thai detective police officer involved in the investigation revealed that the Thai woman had 47 different bank accounts set up with
which to orchestrate and organise the illegal money obtained from online scams.
The woman confessed to Thai police that the Nigerian men, she worked with, obtained the money from Thai women by posing as western men on Thai dating sites and then scamming them out of cash with false stories.
Western man promised to buy Thai woman a condominium
The arrest of the Thai woman came following prompt police action when a Thai woman, targeted by the scam and who had lost money, very quickly reported the incident to the Thai police. The unfortunate Thai woman had been dating a
western man who called himself Jim Thompson. He claimed to be wealthy English man and promised to buy her a luxury condominium in Bangkok. With this in mind he said that he had sent her 5 million baht in cash.
It later seem to emerge that the Thai woman would be required to pay 39,000 baht in cash to Thai customs in order to clear the payment package through customs. The Thai woman received a call from Kessanee Mahayothee posing as a
Thai customs official and went ahead with the payment. Then all communications with Mr. Thompson ceased but the Thai woman victim had the presence of mind to quickly contact police.
That same week another Thai woman paid out over 1 million baht to a Nigerian man based in Thailand prompting a senior Thai police officer to warn Thai women about the use of online social media stating bluntly that large numbers of Thai
women had fallen victim.
Lessons from story of Thai women falling victims to online scams
As the above story demonstrates, one of the key things to do is to contact the Thai authorities in the event of a problem or even a suspicion of a problem. Police in Thailand have issued many statements about the dangers of online dating and
given good guidance to Thai women. It should also be underlined that there should never be financial transactions between online friends. Both parties may go on to relationship of trust but it never acceptable to request money, for any reason or
under any circumstances, from an online acquaintance. Under the terms and conditions of dating sites like TLL, such requests alone represent a breach of the site's terms and can result in the suspension of an account. Thirdly, the story highlights
the sophisticated nature of the exploits of online criminal gangs.
Thai Dating sites are safe if informed
In spite of all this, TLL's Security Manager, Bill Mc Mahon says Thai women can feel safe about online dating in Thailand even looking for international partners. 'We have seen this sort of activity and act against it all the time. We often deal with
queries from Thai women communicating with our users online and we are able to give sensitive guidance bearing in mind our privacy obligations. We will always take whatever steps necessary to protect men or women on our dating site. We
have experienced these individuals at various stages. Often they pose as false characters on telephone conversations after we have banned their accounts or profiles and things like that. We have even taken steps to ban online membership
payments from Malaysia which seems to be part of the problem as well as the Philippines, Hong Kong and of course Africa.'
Key pointers for Thai women to keep safe online
Thailand's dating website says the key requirement is for Thai women to be aware of the extent of this threat gives the following pointers:
- Thai women should learn about foreign countries online. Check cities and towns. Always test the location and position of the person online. This is a tactic often adopted by western men using Thai and international dating sites to combat
online scam artists from countries such as Ghana and Nigeria purporting to be women in Thailand.
- Better safe than sorry:If any Thai women has a doubt or is placed in a position where she is required to send money to a third party, she should make a call to the nearest authorities or to the dating site. The Royal Thai Police and
government organisations in Thailand have put in place information networks in order to respond to Thai women in doubt.
- Thai women should always contact the official department telephone number or contact point and not a personal reference given by what may be a scammer's accomplice.
- Very simply, always be on the lookout for a potential scam without being rude or impolite. A key statistic from ThaiLoveLines security is that these actors are under 1% of any online sweep of a dating site. So it is important not to become
paranoid while maintaining a healthy attitude towards online security.
- Always have a contact or chaperone when dating online. Even if you are a Thai woman who lives alone, find a friend or even multiple friends to share stories about your online activities with.
- If you are online and have doubts about an account or profile on a Thai dating site, make contact with site security and ask for verification of the account or guidance.
Never request money or send money to any other users online. This sort of activity is prohibited under the rules of most leading Thai dating or international sites.
Report any suspicious profile in the interests of other users.
Remember that once you are resolved never to send money to another online user and are aware of the potential danger, you are perfectly safe. The goal of any online relationship and dating activity should be a personal face to face meeting.
Genuine relationships and friendships can perhaps be formed online but for a relationship to be truly personal and intimate, the two parties must have met physically and spent time together.
Key characteristics of recent scams against Thai women
Over the last seven years the ThaiLoveLines security team have picked up details and general characteristics of false or negative profiles that Thai women online should be on the look out for including:
- A man who is an engineer who is widowed or with an international job who is widowed or divorced. Now there are quite a few genuine men who fit this description but it is a favourite profile employed by the online gangsters.
- The scammers often feature a photograph with an adorable young son or daughter. In past exploits, these child has been at the centre of some plight requiring the transfer of funds where the child gets sick in a foreign country and while in
transit to meet the Thai women.
- These scammers can be very patient and build relationships up over period of weeks or even months.
All scams involved transport or carriage of the individual concerned or goods/presents which meet an obstacle or hurdle which requires financial assistance and imposes an emotional burden on the victim to comply. There is always the
promise of either financial or emotional gain.
Thai women and the scourge of online scammers
'Thai women are becoming aware of this issue and it is unfortunate that it will frighten off some from meeting new friends and partners online,' says Carla Boonkong the magazine writer and online contributor on Thai women and international
The problem is so widespread that Thai police around Thailand have issued warnings and set up network responses for Thai women who chose to turn to the authorities for help. For instance, Thai women may be informed by genuine
authorities that customs in Thailand have no requirements for cash payments from third parties in certain situations.
'The sad thing about this is that these despicable people are preying on the innocence and goodness of vulnerable Thai women looking for love, it's truly appalling' says M/s Boonkong. 'I would recommend that Thai women tell each other
about this menace.'
This support and network activity is already in place with several Facebook pages set up by Thai women adamant on making potentially vulnerable Thai women aware of the issue. One Thai woman who is a founder of such a page is
Ranyaporn Wichienchotewat. Her Anti Scam Facebook page identifies Thai women who have lost as much 6 million baht ($200,000).
'A loss like this must emotionally devastating to the victim,' says Carla Boonkong. 'We know for years that scammers target western men but now in Thailand they are also targeting Thai women.'
Boom continues in international Thai dating
Meanwhile the growth of online dating among Thai women continues. 'We stress that our users are safe online provided they are aware of this threat and follow our rules and guidance,' says Pranom Inthakheen, PR Manager for Thailand's
leading dating site ThaiLovelines.com.
'Yes, the boom continues and this was fueled in 2013 by a massive growth in tablet usage among Thai women which continued into 2014,' says Bill Mc Mahon, security officer with ThaiLovelInes.com. It is estimated that tablet and mobile
users on Thai Dating and Social Networking sites will exceed 50% in 2014 for the first time.
'I think that some social networking sites have already exceeded this figure and it is certainly the way things are looking for the future. With this of course come expanded security concerns as many of the Thai women using dating and social
networking sites will be alone.'
Warning regarding Facebook from The womens network
ThaiLovelines maintains an online security team and advanced systems designed to detect and fight against online scammers according to Pranom Inthakhenee. 'But really it is Thai women themselves that can make the situation better by
being aware of the threat and reporting this abuse both to the website concerned and also to the Thai authorities who can respond,' she says.
Meanwhile Thai women's networks in Thailand continue to warn Thai women to be careful about their security online. They particularly highlight dangers posed on social network Facebook where it is comparatively easy to create a fake
One leading Thai woman involved with a woman's group in northern Thailand complained of a woman being lured into sexual relations with a Nigerian man who she had met online. Charoensri Chaikhat, chairwoman of the Phayao Women's
Network said that that the man stole valuables from the unsuspecting Thai woman. 'I've also experienced a similar thing. A man who said he was French wanted to add me as a friend on Facebook, but I rejected him because I don't know him,' Mrs
Mrs Chaikhat issued a severe warning to Thai women particularly teenagers to exercise caution and discretion on material posted on social network and dating sites.She warned about sensitive information such as contact details, telephone
numbers,bank and employment details as well as other sensitive information.
'Actually it's easy to create false profiles on any site but the key security on a dedicated love network and dating site like ThaiLoveLines is that we have a security dedicated to this threat or problem,' says Pranom Inthakhenee, PR Manager with
ThaiLoveLines.com. 'On our site Thai women are safer but only as far as they are willing to exercise personal responsibility,' she claims.
Thai women should read dating site security guides
ThaiLoveLines is the largest Thai dating site based in Bangkok. TLL's security officer recommends that Thai women study the site's security guidance and pages carefully if they are interested in meeting foreign partners but want to protect
Online dating and social network is a fantastic resource opening up new lives and new horizons to women all over Thailand. With it comes risks and the dangers posed by despicable and unscrupulous online scammers. But Thai women have
awoken to the challenge and can protect themselves by reaching out to friends, networking and reporting abuses to the authorities.