(MANILA) Police in the Philippines have rescued more than 1,000 people who were being held captive and forced to engage in online scams targeting victims in Europe, the United States and Canada, authorities said on Saturday.
The anti-human smuggling operation took place Thursday in Mabalacat, 90 km north of Manila, said spokesperson for the Philippine National Police’s cybercrime unit, Michelle Sabino.
The 1,090 people held captive were mainly Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesians lured to the Philippines under all kinds of fabulous promises, according to the police. Among them were also Filipinos, Malaysians, Thais, Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, Burmese and Nepalese.
The workers were trained to trick strangers into buying cryptocurrencies, or transferring money after establishing fake romantic relationships with the victims.
“They were talking about building a future together. Let’s buy a house, a car, let’s invest together, let’s start a business…” said Ms. Sabino.
Twelve people suspected of being at the head of this network have been arrested. They are seven Chinese, four Indonesians and one Malaysian, according to Sabino.
In April, Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros denounced the presence in the Philippines of “fraudulent call centers” employing foreigners who are victims of human trafficking.
An immigration official called for particular caution in international events, which are an opportunity for human traffickers to find victims.
“We have seen victims who came for a beauty pageant and found themselves sent overseas by the traffickers,” said Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco.
For the same reasons, he also called on Filipino athletes preparing to travel to Cambodia for the Southeast Asian Games, which run until May 17, to be extremely cautious.