There are limited direct actions you can take. While there is no guarantee of rescue, you can provide information to human rights organizations that fight against human trafficking. This may increase the chances of rescuing the forced labor victims.
However, it is important to refrain from further contact with him/her for the safety of the forced laborers. There are two main reasons for this:
For the safety of the forced laborers (scammer slaves):
People who are forced into labor, particularly in Southeast Asia, are in grave danger. If your interactions with them are known to the upper echelons of the fraudulent organization, the forced laborers may be abused or even being killed. Therefore, it is necessary to cut off contact with them for their safety.
For your own safety:
The scammer’s claim of being a forced laborer could be another fraudulent tactic. You cannot tell if the scammer is telling you truth. After providing the information to the human rights organizations, it is important to avoid contact to minimize the risk of getting involved yourself in the next stage of victimization.
Investment frauds/investment romance scams are increasing worldwide and are perpetrated by criminal organizations. Particularly in Southeast Asia, there have been reports of the dire situation where human trafficking victims are forced into labor in scam centers. It is estimated that over 100,000 forced laborers are subjected to scams in Cambodia alone.
According to human rights organization HRC (Humanity Research Consultancy), a successful rescue often involves intervention by the forced labor victim’s embassy. Contacting local police directly by the forced laborers or their families or NGOs, often leads to inadequate responses. By officially conveying information about the victims to the embassy, there is a higher likelihood of them being rescued through safer means.
Even after rescue, the forced labor victims may still face difficult circumstances. For example, their visa has been expired and they may be treated as illegal stay. They may not afford to pay the penalty for the overstay, and by some cases resulted with being confined as the illegal immigrants. The diplomatic approach by the embassies will help them resolve the issue of the fines for overstaying, and safely bring them back to their countries.
Here are key steps to take if a scammer comes out as a forced laborer:
- Record the information: Record the detailed information provided by the scammer. This includes their name, contact details, the country they are in, and approximate location if you can obtain such information. You do not need to delve further into the details, as it may pose risks for the forced laborers.
- Contact human rights organizations: Reach out to human rights organizations or NGOs that are involved in combating forced labor and human trafficking. There’s no guarantee that these organizations can successfully rescue the forced laborer, however, if the situation allows, they can work with the local law enforcements and embassies to take actions. Examples of such organizations include HRC (https://humanity-consultancy.) and The Exodus Road (https://theexodusroad.com/), International Justice Mission (https://www.ijm.org/ ).
- Consider the safety of the forced laborers: Prioritize the safety of the forced laborers and avoid contact with them to prevent any threats to their lives if their connection to the outside world is known to their upper echelons. It is crucial to seek support from trustworthy organizations and experts who have experience in protecting the rights and safety of the human trafficking victims. They can guide them on the best course of action for ensuring the safety and rescue of the victims. And this is not the job for scam victims support professionals.
- HRC(2023). HRC Briefing: Guidance on Responding to Victims in Forced Scam Labour.
April 21, 2023 (Viewed 05 July 2023)
- Perdue, M.(2022). The Pig-Butchering Scam – Human trafficking enables a major investment fraud. Psychology Today. (viewed 05. July 2023)
- Podkul C, Liu Cindy(2022). Human Trafficking’s Newest Abuse: Forcing Victims into Cyber Scamming. ProPublica Sep. 13. 2022. (viewed 05 July 2023)
- Wang F, Zhou, X (2022): Persuasive Schemes for Financial
Exploitation in Online Romance Scam: An Anatomy on Sha Zhu Pan (杀猪盘) in China, Victims & Offenders, DOI: 10.1080/15564886.2022.2051109
- Whitehouse,D. (2023). Cambodia, Myanmar “Cyber-slaves” are being Recruited Globally, Research Finds. THE DIPLOMAT May 08, 2023.