Based on USAGov (n.d.), identity theft is the crime in which the personal data was stolen either physically or electronically. The thief use those information to apply for credit card, receive medical care, and create fake identification card or passport. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) (2017), most of such crime which happened in Thailand were commonly committed in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Phuket where most tourists are. Thailand is one of the most visited country from tourists all over the world. It is a dream holiday destination for many people and families. On the other hand, Thailand has also been known for the crime involving identity fraud and identity theft. News are constantly appearing on TVs, newspapers, and magazines.
This research focuses on two cases associated identity theft tourists in Thailand. Ngamkham (2017), the reporter at the Bangkok Post, reports that the police arrested a Chinese woman who allegedly using false information to apply for Thai national identification card by stealing the identity from a hill tribe women, Nakham Manae, to supplied low cost tour package (zero-dollar tour) to Chinese tourists. She used Thai ID card to operate the tour business and made several financial transaction. The officers investigated and found out that she changed her age and the year of birth.
Another example of the identity theft crime involving tourists happened in Phuket. As reported in The Telegraph (McKenna, 2014), the italian identity theft victim, Mr.Luigi Maraldi, came to Phuket and lost his passport from using it as collateral for renting a motorcycle in Patong. His passport information was then used by the missing passenger in the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane flight 370. When asked about Mr. Maraldi’s whereabout by the reporter, his mother, Rita Lucchi, told the reporter that “They ask tourists to leave their passports and then sell them.” It is clear that Mr.Maraldi information has been stolen and used to create fake passport while he was traveling in Thailand. Notably, the identity theft involving tour industry in Thailand doesn’t specify the target group of victims like USAGov (n.d.) classified. The thief, indeed, embezzles name, pictures, date of birth and other personal information from the victim.
This research focuses on the effects of identity theft and identity fraud crimes involving tourist committed in Thailand. Tourist attraction landmark should be a safe place for the tourists. Since there are many travelers in the area, the identity fraud crime is frequently happening there. The victim and their family were in fear, they lose the time, and money. Not only the victims are negatively impacted from the identity theft, but the tourism economy and reputation are also indirectly evoked from this type of crime.
Since the victim, Nakham Manae, got her identity stolen from the ‘zero-dollar tour’ tourist operation, she was directly affected by this incident. She may have suffered from stress and anxiety because the Chinese woman used that Thai ID card to operate her illegal tour business. Moreover, the victim’s name had been used to complete financial transaction which can lead to the victim’s financial stress. There is, in no way, for the victim to know that her identity and personal information were hijacked because she lives in the isolated rural area on the mountain. Although Thai government has taken some actions to fight against the foreigners who are falsifying Thai identification cards to conduct tour operation, the personal information are consistently been stolen and the victims are negatively affected. Another possible effects that the victims may experience is having anxiety (Equifax,2015). Anxiety gives the individuals, either Thais or foreigners, the sense of uncertainty causing them to feel unsafe living in the country.
The Italian tourist couldn’t leave the country and he had to stay in Thailand for longer because he had to wait for the temporary passport to travel back to Italy since his passport got stolen. During that time, he experienced emotional effects such as stress and annoyance. He may feel that he doesn’t belong in this country as he is living in Thailand as the visitor. Because identity theft usually comes as a shock, his family were extremely worried when they saw the news reported their son missing on the plane crash. The family of the victim felt vulnerable and fearful from the news. The identity theft is invasive and faceless crime causing the victim longer period of time to recognize that their identity has been stolen and used to create fake identity (Equifax,2015). Maraldi would never know that his stolen passport has been used for traveling if the plane didn’t crashed and that person reported missing. From this incident, the victim could feel exposed all the time and lose trusts on others which can later affect his feeling toward the society and traveling to other country.
Being a victim of identity theft, victims are possibly suffering with trauma and it impacts on different facets of their life. This may lead to international conflict in allowing tourists to travel to Thailand and, consequently, disturb the national’s income and economy. Moreover, the identity theft in Thailand is increasingly happened over the year (OSAC,2017). This interprets that the country has poorly monitored personal information and has low security of keeping it private and secure. Based on Maraldi’s case, the ease in which passports can be stolen in Phuket is likely to renew criticism from international envoys who have been critical of the way passports are still being used as collateral for renting vehicles (Mckenna, 2014). Although the Thai government has been actively cracking down zero-dollar tour operated by the Chinese coordinator who falsified the Thai identity to acquire national identification card and tour business license, such crime are still committed as Thai identity consistently been stolen, and affected the economy and trustworthiness of the country. The opportunity cost of hunting this type of tour business and identity theft is losing the tourists causing the declining country’s income because those tours are still bringing visitors into the kingdom.
Overall, in the event that identity theft such that foreigners abduct Thai identity or Thai citizens are stealing foreigner’s identity negatively affect the victim and victim family’s mental health, the country’s economy, and country’s security. In order to avoid experiencing identity theft, we should secure our identification document such as ID card, driver's license, passport, and Social Security Number properly, pay close attention to tax billing and other billing cycles, and review the credit card and bank statement regularly for unauthorized transaction (USAGov, 2017). When traveling, it is essential to constantly check if you still have your passport. If you lost your personal identification, report the local police right away.
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