The rise of the 'scamdemic' in Southeast Asia - Freedom United

The rise of the ‘scamdemic’: emerging human trafficking patterns in Southeast Asia

  • Published on
    March 25, 2024
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    Forced Labor
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The trafficking landscape in Southeast Asia has changed. The Telegraph reports on what they call a ‘scamdemic’ where men and boys are increasingly being targeted and forced to scam people around the world in troll factories.

Changes in Southeast Asia’s trafficking

According to the Vietnamese anti-trafficking NGO Blue Dragon, women and girls made up a vast majority of trafficking victims in the region before the pandemic. Before 2020, more than 90% of the women were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and often sold into prostitution in China. But with the economic devastation that came with COVID-19 and a newly built fence along the border between Vietnam and China, the proportion of male victims rose to 40% by 2022.

“The scam centres came out of the blue, nobody really expected it, and they’ve completely changed the landscape and the response. It’s not that women are no longer being trafficked, it’s just that the number of men has surged as labour exploitation has increased. Overall, there’s just been this really massive increase in human trafficking, and it’s driven by these scam centres.” – Dr Caitlin Wyndham, Head of Research and Learning at Blue Dragon

Brutality in scam compounds

According to the United Nations, criminal syndicates are generating billions of dollars through online scams, with hundreds of thousands of individuals coerced into executing these schemes within confined spaces.

Most victims are lured in through a false promise of well-paying jobs, only to find themselves as “dog-pushers,” the term used to refer to individuals ensnared in conducting love scams, crypto fraud, money laundering, and illicit gambling activities.

Kiet, a Vietnamese 30-year-old old who spent more than a year in a scam center in Myanmar reports torture and abuse, and a threat to harvest and sell his kidneys as punishment after he tried to escape.

“He was actually on the operating table and opened up, but halfway through the procedure they changed their mind – presumably because his kidney wasn’t in good enough condition – and closed him up.” – Carlota Torres Lliró, Blue Dragon

Unfortunately, experts agree that there is a high chance that this ‘scamdemic’ will expand, rather than decline. The head of Interpol even declared the Southeast Asian trafficking scheme a global crisis, with the international trafficking networks generating as much as up to $3 trillion a year.

“I think they’re probably going to start popping up everywhere – it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.” – Dr Caitlin Wyndham

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Sonia Corbett
Sonia Corbett
15 days ago

I was recently contacted by a scammer who, I am fairly sure, was one of these scam slaves. He was part of a well-organised network who claimed to have recovered a large sum of money that belonged to me. He wanted me to pay a considerable sum in “tax” so that he could release my funds. He never received anything from me, but contacted me regularly over 2 months.
I have the email addresses that he used to impersonate genuine organisations, which may help in identifying him and his whereabouts.

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