Human Trafficking On the Rise Thanks to Online Scams

( – Growing numbers are trafficked across the world and forced to participate in fraud and online scams, according to Interpol. The international policing organization, based in France, concluded its first major investigation of the crime and found that the majority of cases were centered in Southeast Asia, but it had begun to spread to Latin America.

The trafficking schemes cover several continents, and victims are often moved 1,000s of miles after being duped with promises of overseas opportunities. In October, Interpol said that Ugandan citizens were transferred to Dubai and then on to Myanmar, where they were forced to partake in defrauding banks. Interpol rescued victims from 22 countries in Myanmar last year.

The US State Department published a report on the newly emerging crime in 2023 and said traffickers target young people with lucrative job offers abroad but send them to scam centers where they are forced to work to pay off the “debt” they incurred traveling there. The federal report also said the crime is increasing because the internet, and social media specifically, has provided traffickers with “unfettered access to vulnerable and marginalized populations.”

The Department’s report notes that online crime, and therefore the growth of this kind of trafficking, exploded during the coronavirus lockdowns when people spent much of their time online.

According to a media investigation in 2022, thousands of people from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other countries in that region have been lured to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar with the promise of well-paying jobs. They end up beaten, deprived of food, and even subjected to electric shock if they refuse to conduct the fraudulent schemes.

Among the online scams are social media exploitations, including feigning friendships to manipulate victims into investing in companies or loaning money. People are also offered what look like lucrative business opportunities. An entrepreneur in California reported losing $2 million in a fraudulent business deal, while others in Houston and Connecticut said they lost well over $100,000.

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