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More than 800 ‘good-looking’ people rescued from love scam centre | #philippines | #philippinesscams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


Hundreds of “good-looking men and women” forced to work in a sprawling “love scam” centre have been rescued during a police raid in the Philippines.

Individuals were lured to the 10-hectare compound 60 miles north of Manila on the promise of well-paid jobs. Instead, their passports were confiscated and they were coerced into operating various online scams, pushed to defraud others or face violence themselves.

Authorities said that romance scams – also known as “pig butchering” operations, a reference to the farming practice of fattening pigs before slaughter – were a key element of the operation, which was masquerading as an online gaming company.

Those trapped in the centre were forced to send “sweet nothings” to their victims, peppering them with questions about their day and what they were eating, according to Winston Casio, spokesman for the presidential commission against organised crime.

He added that those running the centre had purposefully trapped “good-looking men and women to lure [victims]”.

They were forced to send photos online, to cultivate a strong relationship before persuading victims to invest in fake schemes, cryptocurrencies or businesses.

Hundreds of people had their passports confiscated and were forced to defraud others

Police found the compound after a Vietnamese man climbed the wall to escape and raised the alarm. In his 30s, he arrived in the Philippines in January after landing a role as a chef.

But he soon realised the job did not exist: instead, he had become a victim of human trafficking. Mr Casio said he showed signs of torture, including electrocution.

In this week’s raid, police rescued 432 Chinese nationals, 371 Filipinos, and 72 others – including people from as far away as Rwanda. They also arrested eight suspects for illegal detention and human trafficking.

“The victims were controlled by having their passports confiscated so they were unable to leave,” said Gilberto Cruz, executive director of the crime task force that led the pre-dawn raid, told AFP. “The workers who failed to achieve their quota … were physically harmed, deprived of sleep or locked up inside their rooms.”

Such scam centres have proliferated across Southeast Asia since the coronavirus pandemic, with the United Nations estimating last August that hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have been tricked into the compounds.

“These scam compounds are quite different to other forms of trafficking that we have seen before… and there’s a lot more brutality involved, ” Dr Caitlin Wyndham, from the anti-trafficking organisation Blue Dragon, told The Telegraph.

“Tackling them is much more complicated, because there are victims on both sides and because most scam centres are run by large and highly organised crime syndicates.”

The industry is also proving incredibly profitable, raking in unprecedented sums equivalent to billions of dollars, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

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