The Emergence of Scam Compounds

December 20, 2023

Today it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of children, women and men enslaved in forced online scamming compounds across Southeast Asia. In just Cambodia and Myanmar, at least 220,000 victims are being kept in these conditions. 

The profitability of these operations for the criminals that run them has led to their rapid proliferation. There have been recent reports that scam compounds have spread to Laos, the Philippines, the UAE, and as far away as Peru.

The Emergence of Scam Compounds

Scam compounds originated in Cambodia, around the time the world was gripped by a pandemic. After a year, there were sites in Myanmar too. 

Often these compounds are former casinos, though not exclusively, in the border towns of Myanmar and Cambodia. When the casinos were forced to close due to Covid-19, criminals sought new ways to generate cash.

By the beginning of 2022, Blue Dragon started to receive calls from people who were locked up in these compounds and being forced into criminality. Since then, the number of pleas for help has risen at an alarming rate.

In 2023, we’ve rescued more than 100 people from scam compounds. Nearly a third of all the people we helped home from slavery — which includes forced labour, forced “marriage”, brothels and sexual exploitation — are now from forced scamming.

Who are the victims?

The traffickers take advantage of people desperate to improve their lives. Most of the people who end up in these horrific compounds are victims of human trafficking from across Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. 

The victims themselves are often from poor, ethnic minority communities, though not exclusively. As the traffickers’ methods have evolved and become ever-more convincing, the diversity of people tricked into accepting fake job offers is increasing. 

A young man walking through the jungle to freedom

A young man walking to freedom, after being held in a scam compound

Increasingly Brutal

It’s not only the number of victims that is rising; so too is the increasingly brutal treatment they face. Reports of starvation, torture, beatings and extorting money from victims’ families have become common. We have even rescued a young man who was forced to give up a kidney when he was unable to scam enough money for his captors. Sadly, there are more reported cases of this appalling crime. 

What can we do?

Although the situation is dire, Blue Dragon hasn’t lost hope. We are not overwhelmed and are responding to every call for help we receive. 

This year we are beginning to see real traction in trafficking prevention. We’ve trained more citizens and officials in anti-trafficking techniques; started ‘Anti-Trafficking Boards’ in villages; and helped schools provide better care and education for their students.

The effectiveness of these methods is evident. More government agencies are approaching Blue Dragon to learn how to implement their anti-trafficking system. In one province of Vietnam, local officials have applied this tried and tested system in 56 villages, protecting hundreds of Vietnamese people from falling victim to these wicked crimes.

But this is only the beginning. With momentum building, it isn’t time to step back. With your support we can end human trafficking. This festive season we’d be grateful for a donation. If you’re in position to make one, you can rest assured it will go a long way towards ending human trafficking.

Celebrate with us!

Celebrate with us!

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