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April 18, 2024
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‘Denied Food, Shelter If Target Not Met’: Rescued Indian Cyber Slave from Cambodia Recounts Harrowing Ordeal


More than 5,000 Indians are reportedly being held against their will in Cambodia, where they are coerced into carrying out cyber frauds targeting people in India. The government estimates that these fraudsters have allegedly duped people in India of at least Rs 500 crore over the past six months.

The Ministry of External Affairs informed on Saturday that approximately 250 Indians caught up in the Cambodia cyber scam have been rescued and repatriated, with 75 rescued in the last three months alone, and assured its commitment to combat fraudulent schemes and help Indian nationals who are stranded there.

Stephen, one of the three rescued individuals from Bengaluru, shared his ordeal with The Indian Express. He explained how he was lured into a data entry job in Cambodia by an agent in Mangaluru, under the pretext of a tourist visa. Upon arrival, he and two others were coerced into fraudulent activities, including creating fake social media profiles to scam people.

“I have an ITI degree and did some computer courses during Covid. There were three of us, including someone called Babu Rao from Andhra. At the immigration, the agent mentioned that we were going on a tourist visa, which raised my suspicion. In Cambodia, we were taken to an office space, where they held an interview and the two of us cleared it. They tested our typing speeds etc,” he told the publication.

He explained that they only discovered later that their job entailed searching for profiles on Facebook and identifying potential scam targets. “The team was Chinese, but there was a Malaysian who translated their instructions to us in English,” he added.

Daily routine to create fake profiles of women

Describing his daily routine, Stephen revealed that they were tasked with creating fake social media profiles using images of women obtained from various platforms. “We were instructed to exercise caution while selecting these photos,” he explained.

“So a South Indian girl’s profile would be used to trap someone in the North so that it did not raise any suspicion. We had targets and if we didn’t meet those, they would not give us food or allow us into our rooms. Finally, after a month and a half, I contacted my family and they took the help of some local politicians to speak to the embassy,” he elaborated.

Reports suggest that Indian nationals in Cambodia were coerced into various cyber fraud activities, including impersonating law enforcement officials to extort money.

Home Ministry discusses rescue strategy

Following reports of Indian nationals allegedly being held captive and coerced into cyber fraud activities in Cambodia, the Ministry of Home Affairs convened a meeting. Officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, along with security experts, gathered to formulate a rescue strategy.

The issue came to light after the Rourkela Police in Odisha busted a cyber-crime syndicate on December last year, leading to the arrest of eight individuals allegedly involved in sending people to Cambodia for fraudulent activities.

Discussing the Odisha case, Rourkela Sub Divisional Police Officer Upasana Padhi disclosed the people responsible acted as agents. They tempted men with job offers and brought them to Cambodia. However, upon arrival, these individuals were coerced into joining companies involved in fraudulent activities. Once in Cambodia, they were subjected to long working hours, and those who refused faced physical abuse and torture.

“The companies take away the passports of these men and make them work 12 hours a day. If anybody refuses to do the work that is asked of him, he is tortured by way of physical assaults, electric shocks, solitary confinement, etc. Many Indians who are not willing to engage in such scams are trapped there. We are trying to identify them, contact them and try to bring them back to India through proper channels,” Padhi told the newspaper.

The officer elaborated that initially, the men were made to join a “scamming company” in Phnom Penh in April 2023. There, they were forced to pretend to be women on dating apps and talk to their potential victims. “After some time, the scamster would convince his target to invest in cryptocurrency trading. This way, many people were duped in India,” Padhi explained.



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