Well-educated Singaporeans trafficked to work in scam centres: United Nations report | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams

SINGAPORE – They previously held professional jobs, have graduate or postgraduate degrees, come from countries including Singapore and are among the new types of victims trafficked abroad to work in scam centres.

This was one of the findings from a report by the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) released on Aug 29.

It said hundreds of thousands of people are currently being forced by criminal gangs to work in scam and illegal gambling centres in South-east Asia.

Victims came from places like Africa, the Middle East, China, and across South-east Asia, including Singapore.

The report said illegal gambling operations had sprouted across South-east Asia from 2014, with scam operations in the same region sharply increasing since 2016.

It said scams flourished when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with many people stuck at home and spending more time online, making them easier targets.

As the region re-opened in 2021, traffickers took advantage of those who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic and were desperate for work.

Luring them with the promise of stable jobs overseas, the traffickers arranged for unknowing victims to travel to countries like Thailand and Myanmar, before smuggling them across the borders to Laos and Cambodia.

They were then taken to scam centres.

Once inside the compounds, some of which are fenced with barbed wire, the victims’ passports are confiscated, and they are forced to work as scammers, with many defrauding their own countrymen.

Those who try to escape are often beaten before being forced back to work.

In June, at least four Singaporeans were rescued from one such compound in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

They were part of nearly 3,000 suspected trafficking victims rescued by the Philippine police on June 26.

The victims were believed to have been promised jobs at a licensed gambling operator, then forced into running love and cryptocurrency scams.

On Monday, The New York Times reported on the proliferation of scam syndicates in Cambodia and how the authorities had rescued 17 foreign nationals from India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand from compounds there, since January.

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