They Were Lured In, Then Made to Carry Out 'Love Scams'

In this case out of the Philippines, some of the scammers were victims themselves
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2024 11:22 AM CDT
Updated Mar 17, 2024 11:40 AM CDT
Hundreds of 'Good-Looking' People Lured for 'Love Scam'
A photo from the center in Bamban.   (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission via BBC)

What claimed to be an online gambling firm was, in fact, a scam center that had trapped hundreds of "good-looking" people, who were then forced to woo unsuspecting victims, according to police in the Philippines, who raided the center 60 miles north of Manila on Thursday. Authorities served warrants against the Chinese-owned Zun Yuan Technology Inc. after a tipoff from a Vietnamese man who escaped the center last month showing signs of torture, including marks from electrocution, per the BBC and The man claimed he was offered a chef's job in the Philippines but arrived in January to find he'd been fooled by human traffickers orchestrating a variety of online scams, including what the BBC describes as "love scams." He wasn't alone.

Police rescued 383 Filipinos, 202 Chinese, and 73 other foreign nationals during the raid on the center in the town of Bamban, the BBC reports. The scammers had trapped "good-looking men and women" who were forced to develop relationships with unsuspecting victims, often from China, in order to manipulate and steal from them, said Winston Casio, a rep for the presidential commission against organized crime. Casio said the individuals would send "sweet nothings" and photos of themselves to victims to gain their trust and affection. It's unclear what else happened at the property—which officials described as "huge" and featuring dozens of buildings—but police seized three shotguns, a 9mm pistol, two .38-caliber revolvers, and 42 rounds of live ammo, per the BBC.

This is just the latest such raid in the country. Over two days last May, police rescued more than 1,000 human trafficking victims who'd been forced to run cryptocurrency scams for 18 hours a day, per Voice of America. "They were lured by social media posts promising good-paying jobs only to get trapped in these compounds that had armed guards to keep them from leaving," a member of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group told the outlet. "They met the people they scammed on Facebook and dating apps. They would pretend to fall in love with them and get their money." Southeast Asia is considered a hub of so-called "fraud factories," but the Philippines is "gaining the dubious distinction as Asia's worst [country] for online sales scams," the Financial Times recently reported. (More Philippines stories.)

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