Human rights groups in Malaysia report that about 700 nationals may be trapped in online scam centers in Laos. It’s also reported that the victims are under threat of beatings and electric shocks if they fail to meet work targets, or if try to leave their guarded compounds.
A victim, 36-year-old Adan, shared that a group of victims were promised work as casino attendants in a resort town. However, when they got there, they were forced to deceive individuals all over the world—especially Malaysia—through calls, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms.
According to the report, Adan and 20 others were placed on the fifth floor of a seven-storey building under round-the-clock surveillance by many armed guards. Their job was just to be in front of computers with the goal of having “customers” invest in shares, gamble, and even “fall in love”.
Adan was one of six Malaysian job scam victims from Sabah and Sarawak who were brought home from Phnom Penh yesterday by the Malaysian International Humanitarian Organisation. The Malaysian International Humanitarian Organisation said that the victims have “been tortured mentally and physically”.
“If they don’t want to work, they will be beaten… Some of them [have] been electrocuted … by electric shock,” said the group’s secretary-general, Hishamuddin Hashim.
Hishamuddin said that more Malaysians are trapped in compounds across Laos. And while the victims don’t always know exactly where in Laos they are, he estimates that about half of them are likely being held on the border with eastern Myanmar and northern Thailand.
Voanews reports that these scam centers have been around for years. Lindsey Kennedy, a consultant for the Global Initiative said the centers multiplied over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also suggests that large-scale trafficking would not be happening without government corruption.
It’s important to remember that you should avoid clicking on unknown links on devices or smartphones. According to Adan, the links are specially designed to “suck” money from bank accounts of victims who wouldn’t even realise that it had been accessed.
Scams can be difficult to spot, especially the more effective ones. But make sure you remember to stay away from things like too-good-to-be-true offers, people you don’t know that ask you for money right away, and if they ask you for personal information like bank details, passwords, or access to your computer. You can read more on how to spot scams here.
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