Online Lovers: Police Rescue Hundreds Trapped in Scam Centre

Hundreds of people have been rescued from a scam centre in the Philippines that made them pose as lovers online.
Police said they raided the centre on Thursday and rescued 383 Filipinos, 202 Chinese and 73 other foreign nationals.
They said the centre, which is about 100km north of Manila, was masquerading as an online gambling firm.

Report says South East Asia has become a hub for scam centres where the scammers themselves are often entrapped and forced into criminal activity.
According to the report, young and tech-savvy victims are often lured into running illegal operations, ranging from money laundering and crypto fraud to so-called love scams. The Love Scams are also known as “pig butchering” scams, named after the farming practice of fattening pigs before slaughtering them.
The report added that they typically start with the scammer adopting a fake identity to gain their victim’s affection and trust – and using the illusion of a romantic or intimate relationship to manipulate or steal from the victim, by persuading them to invest in fake schemes or businesses.

Police said thursday’s raid near Manila was sparked by a tip-off from a Vietnamese man who managed to flee the scam centre last month.
Spokesman for the presidential commission against organised crime, Winston Casio, said the man, in his 30s, arrived the Philippines in January this year, after being offered what he was told would be a chef’s job, only to realize that he, like hundreds of others, had fallen prey to human traffickers running love and cryptocurrency scams.
Mr Casio said those trapped in the Bamban centre were forced to send “sweet nothings” to their victims, many of whom were Chinese, adding that they would check in on their recipients with questions about their day, if and what they had eaten for their last meal, and even send photos of themselves to cultivate the relationship.
He said those running the scam centres trapped “good looking men and women to lure [victims]”.
The Vietnamese man escaped the facility On February 28, by climbing up a wall, crossing a river, and seeking refuge at a farm. The farm owner then reported it to the police.
Mr Casio, whose team visited the man early this month, said there were signs of torture on the man, including scars and marks from electrocution, adding that several others have tried to escape but were always caught.
He said Police seized three shotguns, a 9mm pistol, two .38 calibre revolvers, and 42 rounds of live ammunition from the centre, pointing out that Authorities are still in the initial stages of the investigation as most of those rescued from Thursday’s raid are still “shaken”, he said.

Philippine authorities, in May last year, rescued more than 1,000 people who were held captive and forced to run online scams inside a freeport zone in Clark, a city also north of Manila – in what remains its biggest bust to date.
A UN report last August estimated that hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have been trafficked to Southeast Asia to run online scams.
The BBC has previously spoken to people who have fallen victim to the criminal networks.
Many have said they travelled to South East Asian countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar in response to job ads and promises of perks. They are trapped once they arrive, and threatened if they refuse to participate in the scams. Escapees and survivors have allegedly suffered torture and inhuman treatment.
Governments across Asia, from Indonesia to Taiwan, have expressed alarm at the rise in scam centres, even as Foreign embassies in countries like Cambodia and Thailand, have issued warnings to their citizens to beware of being lured into scam centres.
China issued public rewards for warlords who were running scam centres across the border in Myanmar – these centres were run by Chinese mafia families and targeted Chinese nationals. Many of those arrested have been handed over to China in recent months.
Source: BBC

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