A migrant worker from Myanmar uses his phone at a street side in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
India’s foreign ministry in September issued an advisory warning youth with technology skills of fake job offers in Thailand from “dubious IT firms involved in call-centre scam and crypto-currency fraud”.
Authorities last month said they had rescued about 130 Indians from such schemes in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar – including Wesley and others.
Myanmar’s military government – which took control of the country in a coup in February 2021 – did not respond to a request for comment.
Cambodian officials, who for months denied reports of abuses and trafficking, have taken a harder stance in recent months, and ordered a crackdown on cyber scam operators across the country.
FAKE DATING PROFILES
Bell, a 23-year-old Thai woman, said she was lured by the offer of an administration job with a monthly salary of about $1,000 and free food and housing at a casino in Cambodia.
But when Bell – who used a pseudonym to protect her identity – arrived at the casino in the coastal city of Sihanoukville in December, her Chinese employers took away her passport, ID and mobile phone, and locked the doors.
She was made to create a fake profile on social media and build relationships with men on dating app Tinder, then persuade them to invest in stocks.
“I wanted to go home because it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but they said I would have to pay 120,000 to 130,000 baht ($3,175-$3,440),” she said.
“I had to (work) for fear of being beaten.”
Bell and 20 other Thai detainees were rescued in June by Thai police, who have freed more than 1,200 of their citizens from compounds in Cambodia since late last year, said Surachet Hakphan, assistant commissioner general of the Thai police.
More than 3,000 Thais are still trapped in Sihanoukville and the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, Surachet estimated.
Wesley, who was also told to pay a large ransom if he wished to leave the compound in Myanmar, had to create a fake persona of a young female Brunei-born graphic designer who was working in Monaco and was fond of posting selfies.
He targeted 50 people daily in Europe, Australia, Britain and India, asking each to invest $20,000 to begin with.
Now back in India, Wesley is struggling to find work.
“When I look back … I keep wondering if there were any signs that I missed or anything I could have done differently,” he said from Chennai, where he was interviewing for a job.
“But I didn’t suspect anything.”