Interpol has repeated warnings that human traffickers are fueling an online fraud epidemic in South East Asia and beyond, after revealing details of more arrests made during a recent operation.
Operation Storm Makers II involved law enforcers from 27 countries in Asia, as well as Africa, the Middle East and South America.
It led to the arrest of 281 individuals on suspicion of human trafficking, passport forgery, corruption, telecoms fraud, sexual exploitation and other offenses. Some 149 human trafficking victims were identified and 360 new investigations opened, Interpol claimed.
Individuals from across the globe are increasingly being lured by ads on social media and recruitment sites promising lucrative jobs. However, once they arrive in their destination country, often in Asia, they are forced to work for large-scale digital fraud schemes.
Among these cases were examples including:
- 40 Malaysian victims lured to Peru with the promise of a high-paying job, but subsequently forced to commit telecoms fraud
- Several Ugandans flown to Dubai for a non-existent job, before being diverted to Thailand and then Myanmar. The victims were handed to an online fraud syndicate and kept under armed guard while being taught how to defraud banks
- An accountant from the Indian state of Telangana who was lured to Asia, forced to participate in online fraud schemes in “inhuman conditions” and only allowed to leave after paying a ransom
“The human cost of cyber scam centres continues to rise. Only concerted global action can truly address the globalization of this crime trend,” argued Rosemary Nalubega, assistant director, vulnerable communities at Interpol.
“While the majority of cases remain concentrated in South East Asia, Operation Storm Makers II offers further evidence that this modus operandi is spreading, with victims sourced from other continents and new scam centres appearing as far afield as Latin America.”