MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese mafia is allegedly using Filipinos to lure lonely professionals into investing in dubious cryptocurrency apps.
In a plenary speech on Monday, November 21, Senator Risa Hontiveros said 12 Filipinos were rescued from Myanmar by a network of nongovernmental organizations.
They then traveled to Thailand, where they were met by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Filipinos were said to be human trafficking victims who were recruited as call center agents or workers for Philippine offshore gaming operators through various social media platforms.
But upon arriving in Myanmar, they were forced to engage in a cryptocurrency scam, which involved them establishing relationships with victims through Facebook, LinkedIn, and dating app Tinder.
In a video recording, a Filipino called “Rita,” not her real name, said that after gaining the trust of unsuspecting victims, they move the conversations to WhatsApp and Telegram.
From there, they share a link of crypto platforms and urge victims to deposit cash. After the victims deposit a substantial amount, they are no longer able to access the crypto wallet.
The victims were also carefully selected: Filipinos who were forced into the scam had to talk to the victims at night, when people feel the most empty and lonely.
“You accompany him at this time, just give him enough love. Night is the best time to touch people’s hearts. [The purpose is] to make him like you, trust you, depend on you, and want to get you right away,” a workflow document of the scam read.
Failure to scam people would mean physical harm, including being hit by an electric baton or even death.
Hontiveros said the scheme has two sets of victims: the trafficked and the scammed.
“These Chinese mafias are making the Philippines an incubator of scammers,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate’s women, children, family relations, and gender equality committee, said the mafia is exploiting Filipinos’ English proficiency to enable their scheme.
“The welfare of our people and our national identity are at stake. Filipinos are not and will never be known as a nation of scammers,” the senator said.
Ties to Pharmally?
Hontiveros added that she also found evidence linking the scam to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executives, who were involved in allegedly anomalous government contracts at the height of the pandemic.
The senator said the scammers operated inside the Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone, also known as Yatai New City, in Myanmar.
The ecozone is run by Yatai International Corporation, a company linked to Linconn Ong of Pharmally, according to Hontiveros.
“These links must be brought to light and be further investigated,” the senator said. – Rappler.com