FBI warns of fake jobs abroad that enslave victims for crypto scams

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In a public service announcement published on Monday, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned citizens of fake job ads that lure people to Southeast Asia, where they’re held against their will and forced to commit international crypto scams on unsuspecting victims.

The fake jobs could be anything from tech support, call centre customer service, and beauty salon technicians, the FBI stated. In order to lure victims, lucrative benefits, salaries, and accommodation are offered.

But once they land in the country wherein they believe they’ll be working, victims have their passports confiscated and they’re threatened with violence unless they commit crypto scams online. What’s more, they’re told they must pay off mounting debt — travel fees, room and board, and on occasion, their debt gets worse when they’re sold to other criminal groups.

These types of scams often target Asia-based victims, the FBI noted. Indeed, reports of crypto scam rings using enslaved individuals regularly surface. In November, Protos reported that thousands were enslaved in Cambodia by Chinese crime rings to run fake crypto ICOs and scams. 

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“The bosses said if I tried to leave they would just sell me to another gang,” Soraton, a 20-year-old from Thailand, told the LA Times. “That’s when I realized I was a slave.”

“Instead of getting fired for poor performance, you get physical punishments — forced push-ups and squats, tased, beaten, deprived of food, locked up in dark rooms or worse,” said Jacob Sims, director for International Justice Mission Cambodia, which has helped to rescue over 100 workers from scam gangs.

“On the other hand, those who consistently meet or surpass their targets are rewarded with more freedoms, food, money and control over other victims.”

It’s unclear how many cases of these scams are employed on US citizens. However, the FBI included in its announcement several precautionary measures Americans can take to limit the risks of falling prey to fake jobs, including researching the company before accepting an offer, informing family members before you depart, and scheduling regular check-ins during your time there.

Victims of these scams are encouraged to report them via www.ic3.gov.

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