100,000+  jobs in China
English-speaking Filipinos tricked into Chinese scam jobs
Author: EnglishTeacher    2023-02-03


Hundreds of young, university-educated Filipinos have been pulled into Asia’s scam online rooms, according to whistle-blowers, who say they are waved through Philippine airports by corrupt officials bound for jobs where their English-language skills are used to reel in targets across the world.

Witnesses rescued from the scam centres in the Mekong region say they left for what appeared to be legitimate call-centre jobs overseas, but instead resulted in them being forced into scamming people into joining fake cryptocurrency schemes.

More than 200 Philippine nationals trafficked into Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos to carry out scams returned home between last September and January this year, the Philippine government says. Most were forced to work at compounds and casinos run by Chinese gangsters.

But there are fears many more are still stuck inside the scam centres beyond the reach of the law.


It is “an emerging industrial complex”, said Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, during a January 25 probe on the issue.

Her committee hearing pointed out alleged corruption at the Bureau of Immigration, with testimony from rescued scam centre workers alleging they were instructed by recruiters to leave through a specific booth at Clark International Airport in central Luzon.

The kiosk was staffed by Immigration Officer Alma Grace David – who allegedly took a cut of up to 80,000 pesos (US$1,500) per person. She has since been “reassigned” pending investigation, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said.

Fake security passes were also used to escort Filipinos posing as tourists but bound for jobs as crypto scammers, he said. But since immigration has tightened security “we have a lot of interceptions” at the main Manila airport, Tansingco said.

It is believed dozens more Filipinos await rescue from abusive companies or release from jail following police crackdowns, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega said during the probe.

Victims are young and desperate for work, the panel heard.

Filipino mum Eunice Samson on January 29 appealed to the DFA to help secure the release of her 25-year-old daughter Kiela who was jailed in Myawaddy, a remote Myanmar town bordering Thailand, which houses a notorious scam compound.

A Filipino – identified only as Rita to prevent reprisals – was rescued from the same area in November. She said the scam company she worked at was operated by Chinese nationals whose aim was to establish an “all-Filipino team of scammers due to the Filipinos’ English proficiency”.

Rita had applied to be a call-centre agent in Thailand but was trafficked in a group over the Thai border into the Shwe Kokko complex, a vast entertainment village in Myawaddy, built by billions of dollars of Chinese investment.

The Philippine embassy in Thailand later issued an advisory warning that there were no call centre agent jobs there.

Such job offers in the Mekong Region are “fake”, warned another Filipino who was identified as Ron in front of Senator Hontiveros’ committee on January 25.

Ron said a childhood friend told him in the spring of 2022 about a job opening in Cambodia as a “chat support in a call centre”. The friend introduced him to a Malaysian woman based in Cambodia, who interviewed him via video on the encrypted Telegram app.

When Ron arrived at the office in Cambodia on July 8 last year, he said he was presented with a new contract describing his duties.

“I didn’t want to sign at first because the job description stated I was to befriend women on dating apps and convince them to invest in cryptocurrency,” he said. “But I was forced to sign because I was told I would need to reimburse them US$1,700 for the expenses incurred in processing my job.”

Like many who have survived the scam rooms, he recounted details of agents who were tortured after they refused to work or tried to escape – an allegation backed up by multiple videos leaked onto social media the last six months.

Because he was unable to get investors through the various social media apps like Wink and MeetMe, his salary was cut and eventually let go.

The Mekong Region is not a traditional destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

A survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that in 2018 and 2019, less than 1.9 per cent of OFWs worked in Asean countries other than Malaysia and Singapore.

But political-science professor Jean Franco from the University of the Philippines said that Filipinos now go there and “are duped because they are forced to look for opportunities abroad for lack of decent employment in the country”.

Franco also noted that scammers were aware that Filipinos did not need visas to Asean countries, and were preferred scam targets because “our English language skills are far superior compared to nationals of other countries in the region”.

Source: SCMP

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