A massive click-fraud farm has been raided in Thailand by police and army troops, who seized nearly half a million SIM cards and hundreds of iPhones used to promote products online.
The raid on two rented houses in Ban Mai Nong Sai in the Aranyaprathet District led to the arrest of three Chinese suspects: Wang Dong, 33, Niu Bang, 25, and Ni Wenjin, 32. Investigators found 474 5s, 5c and 4s iPhones and 347,200 SIM cards, as well as computers and electronic devices used to manage them. This led to a second raid that netted another 100,000 SIM cards in a local house.
Benjaphol Rodsawasdi, immigration chief of Sa Kaeo, told the Bangkok Post that the trio admitted they were being paid 150,000 baht (US$4,423/£3,473) a month by a company in China to promote products in the Middle Kingdom. They would, we're told, use the mobes to ramp up sellers' online ratings by giving them positive feedback on product listings. That would push their gear up search result rankings, boosting sales. The gang refused to name the business involved.
Police say that the men set up shop in Thailand because mobile charges are so low in the country, compared to China. They were hired to spam the Chinese social media platform WeChat with bogus page views, ratings, likes and shares.
Police are now investigating how the three managed to get hold of so many SIM cards undetected, when telcos are supposed to log each purchase to a specific individual. In the main haul they found 112,200 SIM cards from Advanced Info Service, 131,000 from True Move and 104,000 from Total Access Communication (DTAC) telco companies.
The three arrested suspects were charged with working illegally in the country and illegitimately importing the devices. Police are now questioning them to see if further click farms can be found.
This kind of internet fraud is becoming increasingly common, as unscrupulous vendors seek to game reputation rankings online in order to become top of the shopping list for buyers. Similar techniques are also used to pump out fake news and discredit people, and it seems tech biz is dragging its feet on fixing the problems. ®