13 Indians caught up in fake IT job scam rescued from Myanmar

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India announced on Wednesday that 13 more of its citizens had been rescued from Myanmar after being lured there under the pretext of lucrative IT jobs and the officials were in contact with Laos and Cambodia to assist in the repatriation of more victims of similar frauds.

After more than 100 workers were recruited by dubious IT companies to work in Myanmar, the external affairs ministry issued a warning to Indian citizens on September 24 about fake job offers being circulated on social media platforms. 32 Indian citizens were rescued from a remote area of Myanmar last month after being forced to work under difficult circumstances by businesses involved in digital fraud and fake crypto currency activities.

“We have been actively pursuing the case of Indians being trapped in fake job rackets in Myanmar. Thanks to the efforts of @IndiainMyanmar & @IndiainThailand, around 32 Indians had already been rescued. Another 13 Indian citizens have now been rescued, & reached Tamil Nadu today,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Bagchi said some more Indian citizens had also been rescued from “fake employers” and were in the custody of Myanmar authorities for “illegal entry into that country”. Legal formalities have been initiated to get them “repatriated at the earliest”, he said.

Instances of similar job rackets have come to light in Laos and Cambodia, and Indian embassies in Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Bangkok have been helping repatriate people from these countries, Bagchi said.

Details of agents allegedly involved in the job racket have been shared with authorities in various states for appropriate action. “We would reiterate extreme caution in accepting dubious employment offers overseas,” Bagchi added.

According to recent reports in US and Cambodian media, officials in Cambodia conducted a number of searches in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville against cybercriminal organisations linked to the “pig butchering” scam. The word “fatten” refers to the process of a farmer fattening a hog before butchering it. The deception depends on getting victims to keep depositing money into phoney websites run by con artists, according to the investigative journalism website ProPublica.

“Workers from around Asia are tricked into going to Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar for seemingly well-paid jobs that instead trap them inside scam sweatshops run by Chinese criminal syndicates. Those who resist directives to engage in online fraud face beatings, food deprivation or worse,” ProPublica reported.

Victims of the scam in the US, Canada and other countries lost huge amounts of money, sometimes more than a million dollars to fraudsters who convinced them to download a trading app called MetaTrader and deposit their savings in sham brokerages accessible via the app, according to the report.

Since mid-September, police operations in three locations in Cambodia have released thousands of workers who were being held against their will. The Sihanoukville raids between September 18 and 22 resulted in the release of 1,480 foreign citizens from India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, according to numbers from the provincial police quoted by Cambodia’s VOD News. The precise number of Indian citizens was not immediately known.

The Indian embassy in Cambodia tweeted on September 24 that 14 Indian nationals had been rescued from “human trafficking gangs”, and reiterated a warning that citizens intending to visit the country for employment or business should check the background of the firms offering jobs.

People familiar with the matter earlier said that Indian embassies in Myanmar and Thailand were in touch with some 50 Indians who sought help, though some reports have suggested that up to 300 Indian workers may have been illegally taken to the Myawaddy area in Myanmar to work for rackets engaged in call-centre scams and crypto-currency fraud.

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