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The FBI has issued a warning about fake job ad postings that recruit workers only to trick them into forced labour operations in Southeast Asia, some of which force visitors to run cryptocurrency scams. The targeted victims are often promised lucrative jobs abroad with travel fees and other benefits paid in advance, which is then used as debt over them to force them to work.
In addition to the debt these victims face when moving to another country once their expenses are paid by these scammers, they’re also kept under fear of local law enforcement. The FBI announcement further states that victims are sometimes even sold and transferred between compounds, further increasing their debts.
The scammers mostly target Aisan victims from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Job advertisements can be spread using anything from social media platforms to online employment and job-seeking sites. Job descriptions range from tech support, call centre customer service and beauty salon technicians all with competitive salaries and benefits including but not limited to paid travel expenses as well as room and board.
The original job location is also often shifted and when the job seekers arrive in the foreign country, “criminal actors use multiple means to coerce them to commit cryptocurrency investment schemes, such as confiscation of passports and travel documents, threat of violence, and use of violence.”
As for the scams themselves, they often include tactics where the scammer encourages the victims to invest in cryptocurrency. Once the payment is made, the victim is ghosted and the scammer disappears with their cash. These are aptly dubbed “pig butchering tactics” and are often used in romance scams, promises of sex or illegal gambling as lures.
Victims’ problems are further complicated by the fact that most governments consider them illegal workers. Cambodian authorities led a raid last September which turned up 262 foreigners working in such camps without permits. The authorities vowed to take strong action against foreigners working illegally in the country and fined them instead of the actual scammers.
The Register reports that this particular raid also turned up four guns, 804 desktop computers, 16 laptops, 36 passports, 12 data storage devices, four pairs of handcuffs, eight electric batons, two “electric shock torches” and 8,776 phones.
The FBI suggests that victims contact the nearest US embassy. While leaving the compound itself might be a task, intervention by an embassy is one of the most successful means of getting out of forced labour, according to Human Research Consultancy. Contacting local authorities is often useless, but diplomatic intervention can massively help individual victims.
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