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Forced scamming

A new, brutal form of slavery is rapidly spreading. We urgently need your help to stop it.

Don't miss the new BBC documentary 'Hunting the Catfish Crime Gang' with James Blake featuring IJM's frontline work to stop forced scamming, which aired on Monday 23rd October. Also available on iPlayer.

What is forced scamming?

Right now, thousands of victims are being tricked, trafficked, trapped in guarded compounds and forced to scam people like you and me, under the threat of brutal violence. This brutal new crime is being reported in the BBC Three documentary 'Hunting the Catfish Crime Gang' and major news outlets.

Forced scamming is one of the most complex and fastest-growing forms of modern slavery in the world.

Interpol recently announced that forced scamming is now a global crisis "representing a serious and imminent threat to public safety." UK banks are also warning of huge increases in online scams.

Forced scamming affects all of us - it's urgent we stop it.

Gavesh*'s story, as featured by the BBC's 'Hunting the Catfish Crime Gang' documentary

After he lost his job due to Covid-19, Gavesh saw a promising job advert on social media for a job in Thailand.

Gavesh was proud to be hired and thought he would be able to provide for his family. His new employers even offered him a place to stay.

But when Gavesh arrived in Thailand, he was trafficked to a guarded compound in Myanmar. The role he’d been offered wasn’t real. Instead, he was forced to create fake social media profiles and scam people for up to 16 hours a day.

Gavesh was beaten for failing to hit his target. Another worker was tortured.

"One of our colleagues was sent to 'water jail' for punishment. The colleague returned to the office beaten up and could hardly talk or walk."

Donate now to stop forced scamming >>

"I felt disgusted by scamming people but was left with no choice and was scared for my life."

- Gavesh, survivor of forced scamming

People like Gavesh urgently need your help. Donate to help stop forced scamming now

How does forced scamming work?

  • A victim is recruited via a convincing fake job advert and trafficked into a heavily-guarded compound.
  • Once at the compound, traffickers take the victim’s passport and phone. They are trapped and unable to leave.
  • The victim is forced to conduct scams for up to 20 hours a day, six days a week.
  • The victim often experiences extreme violence including electrocution or torture.

How widespread is the crime of forced scamming?

  • Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to be working in the scamming industry in South East Asia.
  • Cambodia initially emerged as a primary hotspot for this crime, but exploitation has now been reported in Laos, Myanmar, Philippines – and further afield.
  • 35+ different nationalities have been found in scamming compounds
  • UNODC Cambodia estimates that forced scamming generates $7.5-12.5 billion in Cambodia
  • Without proper victim identification, survivors may be arrested, charged, and convicted for criminal activities done under coercion.
  • UK banks are also warning of huge increases in online scams (BBC).
  • Interpol has issued a warning that forced scamming is a "global threat to public safety." (Interpol)

International Justice Mission (IJM) is one of the first organisations in the world taking action to stop forced scamming. We urgently need your help.

How is IJM stopping forced scamming?

IJM staff in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are on the frontlines, working with governments and foreign embassies to:

  • help bring people to safety
  • provide survivors with legal help, aftercare, and repatriation support
  • hold traffickers to account
  • protect people from being trafficked in the first place.

Thanks to the support of people like you, IJM has worked with authorities to help bring to safety, care for and/or support victim identification for over 350 survivors of forced scamming and has seen the first successful prosecutions of traffickers in the region

Earlier this year, IJM helped secure three convictions of traffickers for forced scamming:

As IJM told The Guardian, “It’s one of the first convictions we’re aware of, so for [the main] perpetrator... to actually get a
four-year sentence, it starts to send the message that you can’t simply get away with this."

Donate now >>

We urgently need your help to stop people being trafficked and forced to conduct scams. Donate now.

*IJM uses pseudonyms to protect survivors.

You Can Help Send Rescue Today.

When you give a gift today, you’ll be fighting slavery, violence, and injustice across the globe. Together, we can end slavery and violence in our lifetime.

You can make the most impact as a Freedom Partner today.

Your generous monthly support will help send rescue to vulnerable children and families at a moment’s notice, stand with them as they rebuild their lives in freedom and have perpetrators held accountable.


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