Many information technology (IT) job aspirants, who dream of having a fat salary in a foreign country like Thailand, are receiving a shock of a lifetime. Many job-seekers who went to Thailand for a job in IT were, in fact, recruited by Chinese criminal gangs to enslave them in cybercrime factories. This is a worrying nexus of cybercrime, human trafficking and torture. Taking advantage of the sensitive geo-political situation in Myanmar and Cambodia, Chinese criminal gangs are running 'factories' for duping thousands of investors worldwide.
A few days ago, the Indian embassies in Myanmar and Thailand rescued 13 IT professionals. This is in addition to 32 Indians rescued earlier from the Myawaddy region in Myanmar.
In a tweet, Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) says, "Instances of similar job rackets have also come to light in Laos and Cambodia. Our embassies in Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Bangkok have been helping in repatriating people from there. We would reiterate extreme caution in accepting dubious employment offers overseas."
According to MEA, IT job aspirants are lured through social media advertisements of highly lucrative data-entry jobs in Thailand. "These workers are then illegally taken to the Myawaddy area of Myanmar, which is difficult to access due to the local security situation."
However, this scam is not limited to Indians only. Several IT job-seekers are being tricked into going to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar for seemingly well-paid jobs. However, they are trapped in scam sweatshops run by Chinese criminal syndicates. "Those who resist directives to engage in online fraud face beatings, food deprivation or worse," a report from ProPublica says
According to the report, in Sihanoukville, a coastal city in Cambodia that has become the country's de facto capital of online fraud, provincial authorities described finding almost 2,000 foreign workers from 11 countries when they inspected just four compounds on suspicion of human trafficking, illegal detention, torture or other crimes. "Authorities identified people from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and other nearby countries, along with some from as far away as Russia. Most were released but were fined for working in Cambodia without permits or sent to an immigration detention centre for deportation. Similar raids are ongoing."
Some of the workers were relocated to remote areas on the Thailand-Cambodia border, three individuals who have been involved in rescuing human trafficking victims from scam compounds in Cambodia in recent months told ProPublica.
"One of the three shared coordinates provided by a person who was relocated from Sihanoukville, which matched that description. Myanmar, where upheaval in the wake of a military coup has created an opportunity for criminal syndicates to expand, is also emerging as a destination for relocating scam operations," the report says.
Once the IT workers are caged, the Chinese criminal syndicates force them to use MetaTrader, a trading app, to target victims. While Apple removed MetaTrader4 and MetaTrader5 from its app store, apps already installed continue to remain active. The app continues to remain available on the Google play store, though.
Cambodian police have freed thousands of workers, from buildings where they were said to have been detained against their will, during raids in at least three cities.
According to ProPublica, Cambodian authorities have stepped up raids on compounds alleged to house workers engaging in online fraud, seizing computers, phones and electric shock batons and freeing thousands of involuntary workers. "The moves are likely to disrupt—perhaps only temporarily—the lucrative global scam known as 'pig butchering'. Named for its analogy to a farmer fattening up a hog before slaughtering it, the fraud relies on convincing people to deposit more and more money into fake online platforms controlled by swindlers. Once the targets become unable or unwilling to deposit more funds, they're informed that they have lost access to their cash and can retrieve it only by depositing more money or paying a hefty fee, a process that compounds their losses."
Coming back to India, a report from IANS says some fraudulent IT companies, engaged in digital scamming and crypto-frauds, have been recruiting Indian nationals from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and some other states using sub-agents.
"Details of agents allegedly involved in this job racket have been shared with relevant authorities in various states in India for appropriate action," Mr Bagchi from MEA says.
How Not To Fall for a Job Scam
1. Big corporates mostly hire employees through their own human resources (HR) department and have a separate page (careers) on their portal. In the case of outsourcing, they hire a reputed HR agency for the task. So, even if you have received any call or offer from an HR agency, visit their website and check all the details. Also, do a simple search to know the reputation of the agency.
2. Avoid agents. Not all are scamsters or fraud; but, since it is a matter of your safety and well-being, it would be better to avoid agents for a job.
3. For overseas jobs, connect with the Indian embassy in that country and, with their help, find out more about the company.
4. Do not share your personal details, especially your passport, with anyone during the recruitment process.
5. Keep someone from your family in the loop while communicating via email about the job.
6. Keep a record of all your conversations with the HR agency and recruitment agents and share it with the family member.
Do report cybercrimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal http://cybercrime.gov.in
or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c).