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“I need to let the world know that this darkness happens every day.”


“I need to let the world know that this darkness happens every day.”

Jun Hao*, a survivor of forced scamming, knows how urgent it is to stop this crime. When Jun Hao left his home in Thailand for a promising job in Cambodia, he didn’t know he would end up fearing for his life.

October 2023

Like many people around the world, 32-year-old Jun Hao lost his job during the COVID 19 pandemic. Desperate to find another job, he came across an ad on social media for a role in customer service. The job looked like a perfect fit.

After a one-month online interview process, he was excited to be offered the role. Jun Hao’s new employers even paid for his flights to Cambodia!

It wasn’t until he arrived at his new office that Jun Hao realised he was in trouble.  Jun Hao was locked in a large compound surrounded by barbed wire with thousands of other people.

Once [the boss] locked the door, I realised that I had been cheated to come to work and that I can't go anywhereThe boss said, he will keep my passport for ‘safety concern’.

Jun Hao was trained and forced to conduct ‘romance scams’, also known as ‘pig butchering’ - a method which involves building fake romantic relationships with people online and then convincing them to invest in a fake crypto platform.

Jun Hao and the other victims had daily targets, working late into the night until they were met. If a worker was caught yawning 3 times in a day, traffickers would deduct $50 USD from their pay.

Worse still - if victims complained, refused to work, or tried to reach out for help, they were beaten and punished:

“If I didn't hit the target, I knew the boss would beat me. I thought I might die because I don't want to scam any innocent people."

“I was shocked and scared. The boss punished the people in front of us...They were using the electric baton to shock until people fell down.

Some workers were locked inside dark rooms for three days or longer. If a worker was deemed not valuable enough or too much trouble, they’d be trafficked to a different compound.

Jun Hao heard this cycle would repeat until the worker was trafficked on the black market for their organs, or even killed. Dangerous as it was, attempting to escape seemed like the only way out.

"One guy jumped out from the fifth floor. Even with broken legs, he got up and escaped."

Fearful for his life, Jun Hao attempted to reach out to a charity for help. He got as far as sharing his location and sending them a copy of his passport as evidence. 

But to his despair, Jun Hao’s supervisors discovered his escape attempt. Hope seemed lost when he was trafficked to another compound, prevented from going outside.

If he ever wanted to leave, the traffickers demanded a payment of $11,000 - money Jun Hao didn't have, nor could he ever earn.

Risking further punishment, Jun Hao desperately reached out to IJM on social media: “Once I reached out to IJM, I also thought that was a very small chance… I had been betrayed once at the first company.”

But his bravery paid off. IJM reached out to the Cambodian police for intervention and finally, Jun Hao was brought to safety.

“I am really thankful to the IJM team who helped me. If not, maybe I am still stuck there.” 

After being reunited with his family, today he’s back in Thailand and has found an online customer service job.

Now, Jun Hao is using his voice to bring global attention to the issue of forced scamming and is working with IJM to bring about justice reform.

I think this kind of thing will be forever in my memory. It was really terrible.

I need to speak out because I need to let the world know that this kind of thing happens This kind of darkness happens every day.”

IJM is working with government agencies and partners in South East Asia to stop forced scamming.

To find out more about forced scamming, you can watch this new BBC Three documentary, 'Hunting the Catfish Crime Gang' from Monday 23rd October. Also available on BBC iPlayer.

You might also be interested in…

About Stories see more
IJM’s work to stop forced scamming featured on ITV News
ITV News highlighted IJM’s vital work in a special investigation on forced scamming and as the top headline story for ITV News at 10.
“I want to tackle human trafficking.” - Ridwan's story

Meet Ridwan*, a passionate advocate for an end to forced scamming. Ridwan has shared his story across the Philippines and Indonesia, including at the Philippine Senate and the Indonesia Anti Trafficking Gathering.

Now he wants to share his story with you: “Hopefully, no more Indonesian citizens will be trapped like me.”

UK Foreign Office announces world's first list of sanctions for forced scamming

IJM commends the UK government's decision to sanction individuals and companies for forced scamming but IJM's Jacob Sims explains why this can only be the beginning.

Forced scamming: "I was scared for my life."

Gavesh* from South Asia, whose story is featured in the new BBC Three documentary 'Hunting the Catfish Crime Gang', shares in his own words how he was tricked, trafficked, trapped – and eventually found freedom.

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