Recently, The Register reported that Cambodian officials have made a raid on criminal operational bases where imprisoned foreign national were being forced to work as scammers. The workers had been lured there with promises of well-paying jobs, and were subsequently held captive and forced to scam people out of money by phone or internet chat. The raid turned up hundreds of computers, phones, handcuffs and stunning rods.
The article also mentioned that recently, Vietnamese men and women were reported to have broken free of their captors and were attempting to swim to freedom. The operative word here is attempted – we don’t know if they made it.
Scamming is a criminal enterprise with many victims. Of course, we focus on the people who are scammed out of their money, emotionally scarred, and who sometimes die at their own hands out of shame. They are the most obvious sufferers, but unfortunately, no the only ones.
This enterprise isn’t black and white, only gradations of grey. Are the people pretending to be a love interest, a person in the military, or an entrepreneur with a great investment opportunity actually committing crimes? Of course. But what if we knew that they were performing these acts under threat of torture? How widespread is the practice of beatings or torture inflicted on the actual scammers? We have no way of knowing what is going on with the person on the other end of the scam.
I’m not suggesting that we acquiesce to the scammer demands because they may be doing it under duress, only that this is a much more nuance and complex group of players. When the potential profits are as large as they are, so are the dangers of people willing to commit any crimes to get them.