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PASAY, Philippines – A government team which raided a Chinese-run offshore gaming company in Pasay City for alleged online fraud uncovered written guidelines instructing its workers to flirt with potential victims, making them fall in love before they pounce on them.
The workers were directed to engage unsuspecting “clients” in small talk, flirt, and establish a romantic relationship with them online.
“Make him fall in love with you deeper,” read one of the guidelines.
Authorities raided the establishment and held 643 workers, many of whom are foreigners, in Pasay City late Tuesday night, August 1, for alleged cybercrimes.
Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said the establishment, owned by SA Rivendell Gaming Corporation, has been turned into a “scam hub.”
Authorities said they were investigating a scheme where victims from Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, among others, were enticed to engage in fraudulent cryptocurrency investments.
The alleged modus operandi involves convincing targets to invest based on false promises of lucrative returns after forging personal connections with them to gain their trust.
An initial report from the team showed that 186 of the 643 workers are foreigners while the remaining 448 are Filipinos. About 348 of the workers were female, with five of them pregnant.
The non-Filipinos include 174 Chinese, five Malaysians, three Taiwanese, one Vietnamese, eight Indians, two Pakistanis, one Bangladeshi, and another one from Myanmar.
All were caught operating various digital platforms at SA Rivendell Gaming.
Cruz said the raid was carried out based on eight warrants issued by Judge Ma. Victoria Soriano-Villadolid of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 24, to search, seize, and examine the establishment’s computer data in line with the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The team was composed of representatives of the Department of Justice-Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking and Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti-Human Trafficking Division, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Committee, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and the Philippine National Police.
Marianne, a 26-year-old worker, said she was a “guide” to her Chinese bosses, serving as his eyes and ears.
“Bale iuutos ng mga Chinese, ichecheck kung nagtatrabaho ng maayos, kung nagagawa ng maayos yung trabaho nila. Kunwari pag nakikita mo sila na nakikipagusap sa client or kumukuha sila ng client, or kapag hindi sila nagtatrabaho, ayun magsasabi ako sa mga Chinese. Kapag hindi okay, sasabihin ko. Tapos aalisin nila pag hindi okay,” Marianne said.
(The Chinese instruct us to check if the employees are working properly and if they are doing their job well. For example, if I see them talking to a client or taking a client, or if they are not working, I report it to the Chinese. If they’re not okay with their work, I inform the Chinese. Then, they will remove the workers if they are not okay.)
Marianne said she just found out that the establishment was turned into a “love scam.” She did not elaborate further.
She explained that their type of work changes as soon as a new boss arrives, and then their social media accounts are changed, too.
Marianne said, “Yung unang pasok namin dito alam namin is CSR (customer service representative). Call center po. Kasi noong una lottery kami. Gambling talaga. Doon naman alam naman ng client na gambling talaga. Yun talaga ang trabaho. Iba-iba kasi ang nagiging boss ko eh. Papalit-palit po sila. Iba-iba yung naghahandle na tao. Kami nag-stay rin kami dito so paiba-iba yung ginagawa namin. Pag iba na yung boss, iba na yung gagawin.”
(Our initial understanding when we started here was that it’s about customer service representatives, a call center. At first, we were doing a lottery; it was gambling. The clients there were aware of that. That was the job. The thing is, my bosses keep changing. They rotate. Different people handle us. We also stay here, so our tasks keep changing. Whenever we have a new boss, the tasks change as well.)
She said their establishment recently underwent a market shift, redirecting its services from the Australian market, which it served last month, to now concentrating on the European market.
The transition, according to Marianne, also brought about another change in their working schedule, with the company operating at night most of the time, leading to reduced rest hours for the workers.
Before the Australian market, the company had been handling clients primarily from Hong Kong and Singapore.
The establishment is virtually a sweatshop given its working environment or employment situation where workers. There, workers are subjected to exploitative conditions such as low wages, and long hours of work.
Marianne, for instance, started as a customer service representative before she was promoted to the position of “guide” due to her length of service, with a fixed monthly salary of only P20,000 and an additional P3,000 for perfect attendance.
She said she has been working 12 hours a day and was entitled to only a half-day of rest each week.
Marianne said vacation and sick leaves are allowed based on their performance.
“Kapag nakapagbigay ka ng client, ayun, pwede kang payagan (mag-leave). Tapos kung wala kaming performance, nag-13 to 14 hours kami. Okay lang yun kasi kailangan namin ng trabaho,” she said.
(If you can provide a client, then you can be allowed to take a leave. But if we don’t have any output, then we work for 13 to 14 hours. That’s fine because we need the job.)
Authorities are still holding the workers in the establishment as of posting time, and assessing if they should be included in a case being prepared against SA Rivendell Gaming. – Rappler.com