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The Hidden World of Cyber-Scam Slave Labor Factories

by Suzanne Kantra on April 03, 2024

In 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that U.S. consumers lost a staggering $10 billion to fraud, with investment scams leading the way. While these figures are alarming, they only tell part of the story. Behind many of these scams lie cyber-scam factories in Southeast Asia, where victims are subjected to forced labor and inhumane conditions, coerced into perpetrating scams that target individuals worldwide, particularly in the United States.A concept drawing of a hacker made of code holding a laptop computer.

From lured victims to unwilling scammers

These cyber-scam operations lure in victims from across Asia with the promise of legitimate jobs. However, upon arrival, they are confined, threatened, and forced to run elaborate scams across the globe. The recent BBC report on the rescue of 250 Indian citizens in Cambodia highlights the disturbing reach of these operations.

The U.S. Department of State’s 2023 report on Human Trafficking and Cyber Scam Operations cites Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Ghana, and Turkey as locations where cyber-scam traffickers set up shop. These factories primarily target people in wealthy nations like the US, UK, and Australia, often employing a variety of manipulative tactics.

The scams orchestrated by these factories are varied and complex. "Pig-butchering scams" are a prime example, where victims are groomed online and manipulated into investing in fraudulent cryptocurrency, gaming, or other schemes. Other common scams include romance fraud, where scammers pose as potential partners to exploit victims emotionally and financially, and impersonation scams, where scammers pose as law enforcement or government officials to extort money from their targets.

Read more: Investment Scams Surge: New FBI Report Warns of Record Losses

What's being done (and what you can do)

Authorities in India and other countries have made raids and arrests, but the problem is vast, and these traffickers can quickly shift locations. Until these factories are shut down for good, here's how to protect yourself.

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited calls and emails, especially ones demanding immediate action or payment.
  • Never give remote access to your computer: No legitimate tech support will ask for this.
  • Hang up on threatening calls: Government agencies won't demand money over the phone.
  • Report scams: Websites like the FTC help build a case against these criminals.

The victims trapped in these factories deserve our attention and action. By being informed and cautious online, we deny these scammers the success they need to keep their awful operations running.

[Image credit: hacker concept via BigStockPhoto]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.


News, Computers and Software, Computer Safety & Support, Blog

Discussion loading


From Mike Bockstiegel on April 05, 2024 :: 4:09 pm

Never give remote access to your computer: No legitimate tech support will ask for this.

I beg to differ.  Microsoft and HP are two companies that make products I use.  For most problems I run into when I get support the technician gains access to my computer and quickly fixes the problem.

I agree that if you didn’t contact customer support, then you can’t be certain who you are talking to and giving them access is risky.  But if you were the one to make contact, giving them access to my computer is the best way to fix the problem.


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