Fake job ad for Cambodian cyber scam centre results in 53 people held hostage

More than 50 would-be scammers are reportedly being held hostage in Cambodia after falling victim to fake job ads for a cyber scam centre.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday its embassy in Phnom Penh has received reports 53 of its citizens have been held against their will in the city of Sihanoukville since July 18, CNN Indonesia reports.

Teguh Adhi Primasanto, first secretary of the Indonesian Citizens Protection department at the embassy, said an official complaint had been submitted to Cambodian police requesting assistance to free the Indonesian citizens and return them home.

“The victims were sent to Cambodia by recruiters – who are Indonesian citizens – to work as cyber scammers at a company owned by a mainland Chinese citizen,” he said.

Sihanoukville, located on Cambodia’s southern coast, is well known as a hub of industrial-scale scam centres, Coconuts Jakarta reports.

According to the website, thousands of people are imprisoned, abused and forced to scam people around the globe often after being tricked in a manner similar to the Indonesians.

It’s not clear whether other victims referred to knowingly applied to work in scam centres like the Indonesians or were lured under false pretences.

The 53 trafficking victims reportedly managed to contact the Indonesian government to ask for help.

Mr Teguh said cases of this kind of fraud were common, and hoped that the Indonesian embassy could obtain further information after the 53 citizens were released.

“Especially with regard to those who recruited them, the police in Indonesia can follow up on them so that recruiters can be snared,” he said.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs warns travellers to exercise caution in Cambodia.

“Criminal rings operating in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh, often use an apparently friendly person to approach travellers,” the SmartTraveller website says.

“They use ploys and stories to invite travellers to private homes. Travellers are talked into playing card games, where they lose large amounts of money. Some are forced to withdraw money from an ATM or shop, often at gunpoint.

“Online relationship and friendship scams also happen. Australians involved in these scams have been asked to take items with hidden drugs out of Cambodia, or may be asked to send large sums of money to assist with fake problems.

“Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. This includes using skimming machines to store card data.”

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