Home INDIA Fake Profiles, Pics: How Indians In Cambodia Were Forced To Scam Indians

Fake Profiles, Pics: How Indians In Cambodia Were Forced To Scam Indians

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Fake profiles, photos: How Indians in Cambodia were forced to scam Indians


Those trapped in Cambodia were forced to scam people back home, reports say (Representative)

New Delhi:

At least 5,000 Indians are reportedly being held against their will in Cambodia and forced to scam Indians at home online. The sheer scale of the fraud — the Center estimates the proceeds of crime generated in the past six months at as much as Rs 500 crore — prompted the two countries to join forces to curb it all.

“We have seen the media reports about Indian nationals being stuck in Cambodia. Our Embassy in Cambodia immediately responded to complaints from Indian nationals who were lured to that country with employment opportunities but forced to undertake illegal cyber work,” the Ministry of External Affairs said. Affairs said, adding that around 250 Indians have been “rescued and repatriated” so far.

According to media reports, those trapped in Cambodia were forced to defraud and extort money from people back home in India by posing as law enforcement officers and telling potential victims that suspicious items had been found in packages they sent.

Police came to know about this massive scam late last year when a senior central government employee alleged that he had been defrauded of over Rs 67 lakh and filed a complaint. Odisha’s Rourkela police on December 30 busted a cybercrime syndicate and arrested eight people allegedly involved in moving people to Cambodia.

“We have arrested eight persons from different parts of the country and have prima facie evidence against several people involved in the scam. “We issued Look Out Circulars against 16 persons following which the Bureau of Immigration detained two men – Harish Kurapati and Naga Venkata Sowjanya Kurapati – at the Hyderabad airport after they landed from Cambodia,” an officer said Indian Express reported.

The modus operandi

Stephen, one of the men rescued from Cambodia, has an ITI degree. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, he took up some computer courses, he told The Indian Express, explaining the racket’s modus operandi.

“An agent in Mangaluru offered me a data entry job in Cambodia. There were three of us, including one Babu Rao from Andhra Pradesh. At immigration, the agent said we had tourist visas, which made me suspicious,” says he. told Express.

The three were taken to an office in Cambodia where they were interviewed, Stephen said, adding that only two of them could approve the case. The boss was Chinese, while a Malaysian helped translate for them, he said.

“They tested our typing speed, among other things,” he said. “Only later did we find out that our job was to look for profiles on Facebook and identify people who could be scammed. The team was Chinese, but a Malaysian translated the instructions into English,” he added.

A day in the life of cyber slaves

The men were forced to pose as women with fake social media profiles and fake photos. They were given daily goals and a punishment for not meeting them. This is how the recruits would spend their days in a country they were lured to with the ‘promise’ of a better job.

The ‘cyber slaves’ would go without food and rest if they failed to meet their daily targets, the Express report quoted Stephen as saying.

“We had to create fake social media profiles with pictures of women sourced from different platforms. We were told to be careful while choosing the pictures,” he said.

“A ‘South Indian woman’ would trap someone in the north so as not to arouse suspicion. We had targets and if we didn’t meet them, we weren’t fed and weren’t allowed to go to our rooms. Finally, after a month Eighteen months ago, I contacted my family and with the help of some local politicians, they managed to talk to the embassy,” he said.

How were the Indians defrauded?

The suspects took the men, or the would-be scammers, to Cambodia on the pretext of jobs, Rourkela’s police officer Upasana Padhi told The Indian Express.

Once there, the men had to join the companies that indulged in defrauding people, she said. These companies would confiscate the passports, making it impossible for them to leave, and forcing them to work 12 hours a day, she added.

“If anyone were to refuse to do what is asked of him, he would be tortured through physical attacks, electric shocks, solitary confinement, etc. Many Indians who are unwilling to engage in such scams are stuck there. We are trying to identify, contact and bring them back through proper channels,” Ms Padhi said.

The scammers would pose as women on dating apps and chat with the potential targets. “After a while, they would convince the target to invest in cryptocurrency trading. Many were duped this way in India,” she said.

According to Rourkela police, in October 2023 the officers induced the men to join another company that focused on investment fraud. “This company lured people into investing in fake stocks. They also created a fake online app,” the officer said.

The police have collected several key pieces of information, including the location of the fraud companies, their agents, their modus operandi and their management hierarchy, Ms Padhi said.

They have also identified three senior officers of Indian origin and one senior officer of Nepalese origin. “We plan to arrest the key players in this scam with the help of Interpol,” she added.

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