A 19-year-old student in Nakhon Si Thammarat hanged herself after being scammed into making a 20,000-baht online down payment for a non-existent iPhone.
Police on Tuesday were hunting for the scammers, including a woman who owned a mule account used by the gang to receive payments.
Atiya, 19, a Mathayom Suksa 6 (Grade 12) student was found hanging by a rope around her neck, tied to a beam, in her bedroom at the family home, in tambon Koh Thuad of Pak Phanang district on Sunday evening.
Police investigators said it appeared that stress from being swindled by online scammers drove her to suicide.
Police questioned three close friends of the dead student and her aunt, who lived in the same house. They learned that Atiya had contacted via social media a mobile phone shop whicih claimed to be in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai, to buy an iPhone 13 via instalments.
The shop said she had to make a down payment before it would send the phone.
The young woman had transferred money into a bank account in the name of Ms Dokkaew Kaewjerm, making four payments for a total of 18,500 baht. Money transfer slips and chat messages between the student and the seller were found on her mobile phone.
But after the deposit was paid she did not get the phone. She had contacted the seller several times, and then asked for the return of her money. The shop later replied, asking for an additional 2,000 baht as guarantee money for the iPhone. She transferred the extra money.
There was no response after the money had been sent. Atiya learned that she had been swindled. Some of the money had been borrowed from two close friends. She was also afraid of being scolded by her mother. This all caused her great stress.
About 3.15pm on Oct 15, she sent her last message – to one of the two close friends. She said she had been swindled and feared her mother would berate her. When there was no further contact from her, her worried friend contacted Atiya’s family, saying they should enter her bedroom.
The bedroom door was locked and they had to force it open. Once inside, they were aghast to find she had hanged herself. The family was thrown into tumoil.
Pol Lt Col Sawat Niyomdet, investigation chief at Koh Thuad, opened an immediate investigation. Police discovered the phone shop in Mae Sai did not exist. Local investigators were working with cybercrime police to find the scammers, starting withthe owner of the bank account.
On Tuesday, the dead student’s mother, Ms Boonyuen, 47, broke into tears as she told reporters what happened to her daughter.
She had heard about online scams, and about a student who committed suicide after he was conned, but never thought such a thing would happen to her daughter.
She said her daughter wanted an iPhone 13 for use at university next year, but it was very expensive. She told her to wait until the end of the month. Instead, Atiya went online to buy one by instalments, and was swindled.
“If she had told me that she intended to buy a smartphone online by instalments, this would not have happened. I would never have criticised her, because I love her dearly,’’ Ms Boonyuen said, tears pouring down her cheeks.
She asked police to quickly catch the thieves, so they could not cause such misery for other people.