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Alarm raised by BI over local workers landing in overseas scam hubs

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AN alarm was raised by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) regarding local online gaming company workers being recruited to scam hubs in Asian countries.

BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco Tansingco said that based on a report he received from the BI’s immigration protection and border enforcement section (I-PROBES) on the repatriation of a male trafficking victim last August 9, it turned out that the 30-year-old victim was trafficked to Myanmar to work as a love scammer targeting Americans and Europeans to invest in cryptocurrency.

It was learned from BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval that the victim departed to Thailand in August last year with five others, who he claimed to be his friends. During his departure, he showed that he is working for an online gaming company in the Philippines and that he had numerous previous short travels as a tourist.

Upon repatriation, Sandoval said the victim admitted that he was recruited on social media as a customer service representative in Thailand, but was fetched by a van and transported via boat to Myanmar upon arrival.

Sandoval said the victim was then required to reach a weekly quota, otherwise would be subjected to physical torture like push ups, squat jumps and electrocution.

The victim showed the physical marks on his legs from the electrocution he received when he failed to reach his quota, adding that his working hours were 16 to 18 hours a day only getting a day or half day off when he reaches his quota.

“They were literally enslaved. They were only allowed to use their phones for two hours in a day. He was required to pay more than half a million pesos for his release, which he negotiated and paid only more than 168 thousand pesos for his freedom,” said Tansingco.

The BI chief added that a previous repatriated victim was found to be working in a scam hub in the country, saying: “This seems like a big syndicate that has operations here and abroad, and are victimizing Filipinos,” he stated. “We have raised the issue to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for investigation so we may put a stop to this syndicate.”

“This is a regional issue and we have discussed ways to combat this with other countries that have observed this as well,” said Tansingco, adding that the same issue has been discussed during a recent ASEAN meeting of immigration leaders.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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