Beware of online job scams offering high salaries in foreign countries

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KUCHING, 28 Aug: Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) has received public complaints from victims of online job scams since last June.

According to SUPP’s Public Complaint Bureau Chief, Milton Foo Tiang Wee, Sarawakians were lured to other Southeast Asian countries, especially Cambodia and Myanmar, where they ended up as forced labour.

The number of Sarawakians to date affected by the potential human-trafficking crisis has increased to 10 cases.

“We have advised the families concerned to lodge police reports over this matter, and we have assisted them to submit (their complaints) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saifuddin Abdullah, through Deputy Premier Sarawak, Dr Sim Kui Hian,” said Milton in a press statement released today.

Milton extended his appreciation to Mr Monty, from the Sarawak Regional Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had been giving updates on the rescue efforts being carried out from time to time.

He assured that the ministry is working closely with the Embassy of Malaysia in Phnom Penh to seek further assistance from the local police in Cambodia in rescuing the victims.

“I have also been contacted by the victims themselves, who were trapped in Cambodia, by using WhatsApp call. They were all in desperate situations,” he added.

According to Milton, only four victims have returned safely to Sarawak.

One victim purportedly paid USD22,000 (RM98,340) to the syndicate involved to release him, but in the end, his family paid more than RM100,000 to enable him to return home last month.

“I was told that the prices for release vary from one batch to another when they are being sold or transferred by the group of scammer companies there,” said Milton.

For example, he added, the local recruiter will be paid USD5,000 (RM22,350) per head by the syndicate there that may sell the victim for USD8,000 to USD10,000 (RM35,760-RM44,700) to the scammer company called Batch Two.

If the victim in Batch Two did not perform well, he or she may be sold to another company called Batch Three at a higher price.

“An uncle had managed to ‘buy’ his nephew who was stuck at Batch Five at USD22,000. Batch Seven or Eight is at a very dangerous stage. The further the batch, the higher the price,” Milton explained.

“I was also told that the syndicate will punish them if the victims did not meet the sales target in scamming people around the world through smartphones, or if they attempt to escape, by beating them up or even electrocute them.”

The victims were forced to work for at least 16 to 18 hours a day.

Milton urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue red notices to citizens who are planning to work in Cambodia as well as to authorities such as airport customs to keep a close eye on Malaysians going there for travelling or working purposes.

“The government can put up warnings about job scams, such as those being displayed at the Hong Kong International Airport,” he said.

He also urged the public to stay alert so as not to fall into the abyss of lucrative job scams in Cambodia that in the end only incur exorbitant ransom payments, if not the risk of death.

According to global news websites, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, South China Morning Post, and (Australia), thousands of people are imprisoned, abused and forced to scam people around the globe, often after being tricked with offers of high-salary jobs.

The fate experienced by victims from places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia is similar to that of Malaysians, including those from Sarawak.

South China Morning Post reported on 20 August that Hong Kong will work with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Interpol to bring back home residents who are victims of human-trafficking cases in Southeast Asia, with a new WhatsApp hotline set up for quick action. – TVS

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