A Filipino lawmaker has raised the alarm over the mass recruitment of Filipinos to scam the West using digital assets.
Senator Risa Hontiveros disclosed the new scheme on the floor of the Senate, where she noted that her office had uncovered a large-scale human trafficking ring. Investigations by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) revealed that a Chinese syndicate was behind the ring and sought to create an “all-Filipino team of scammers.”
The false promise of a job lures the victims of the scam as customer service representatives or as data encoders in a call center. According to the testimonies of 12 rescued Filipinos, the dreams of a promising job faded away after arriving in Thailand, where they were trafficked to Myanmar to work as scammers.
“These Chinese mafias are making the Philippines an incubator of scammers,” said Hontiveros. She told her colleagues during the plenary session that the syndicate prefers Filipino workers because of their English proficiency and affordability.
Investigations revealed that the scammers’ operations had been traced to the Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone or Yatai New City—an area previously investigated by law enforcement agents.
“Although 12 of our compatriots have been rescued, let’s remember that the exploitation of evil-minded people has not stopped. There are many Filipinos in Myanmar who need our help. Like those who were rescued, they were forced to cling to the syndicate’s promises because of hardships. I hope they can be brought back because they must be suffering terribly now,” Hontiveros said.
The use of threat and intimidation
Hontiveros revealed that the syndicate employed extreme violence to coerce victims into complying with the scams. For individuals that refuse to partake in the scheme or meet daily targets, syndicate members have been known to force them to do 1,000 squats or beat them with electric batons.
Recruits are told to foster relationships with victims online while building romance and love in a move akin to pig butchering. After establishing sufficient trust, Hontiveros stated that the victim is encouraged to invest in some digital currency projects.
Several law enforcement agencies in the Philippines have pledged their support in apprehending the bad actors behind the scheme. The Senate Committee on Migrant Workers and the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs have also shown readiness to get to the bottom of the recruitment scam.
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