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Hundreds of Indians rescued from cyber-scam factories

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The Indian government has so far rescued 250 citizens in Cambodia who were forced to run online scams.

They were promised jobs but “forced to undertake illegal cyber work”, India’s foreign ministry said.

Recent reports have said more than 5,000 Indians stuck in Cambodia were forced to operate cyber-fraud schemes.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world are estimated to have fallen prey to human traffickers running job scams in South East Asia.

Victims, mostly young and tech-savvy, are promised jobs and then lured into illegal online work ranging from money laundering and crypto fraud to so-called love scams, where they pose as lovers online.

A UN report said in August 2023 that at least 120,000 people in Myanmar, and another 100,000 in Cambodia, were forced into operating cyber-fraud schemes.

This is the latest in a series of rescues of such victims in South East Asia. In March, police rescued hundreds of people from a scam centre in Philippines where they were forced to fool people by expressing romantic interest online under a fake identity. A few weeks before that, China repatriated hundreds of its citizens from scam centres in Myanmar.

Over the weekend, Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson of India’s foreign ministry, said that the country was working closely with Cambodian authorities to “crack down on those responsible for these fraudulent schemes”.

India said it had rescued 75 people in the past three months while the timeline for the rest isn’t clear.

The BBC has emailed the Cambodian embassy in India for comment.

Last week, the Indian Express newspaper reported that India’s embassy in Phnom Penh had received 130 complaints of Indians being held in Cambodia against their will.

They were among thousands of others who were allegedly forced to scam people in India or in some cases, extort money from them by pretending to be law enforcement officials.

The victims in India had been duped of a total of at least 5bn rupees ($59m; £47m) in the past six months, the newspaper reported.

In another report, the paper quoted an official in India’s embassy in Cambodia as saying that they received four-five complaints every day on average from people trapped in Cambodia after being offered jobs.

One of the rescued men, identified only as Stephen, told the newspaper that he was recruited by an agent from the southern Indian city of Mangaluru and offered a data entry job in Cambodia.

After reaching the country, he says he was asked to create fake social media accounts with photographs of women and use them to contact people.


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