CRYPTO scam syndicates are targeting not only aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) but also migrant workers with expiring visas, according to the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco disclosed on Thursday that the scheme surfaced following the recent arrival of two repatriated trafficking victims from Myanmar, who were both former OFWs from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The victims, a male and a female narrated, that they were both recruited in UAE, and flew to Thailand as tourists in October 2022 with another Filipino they only met on the flight.

They were said to have been recruited by an agent that promised that expenses will be deducted from their salaries. The two were offered a salary of around P48,000 a month to work as customer service representatives in Thailand.

They shared that they were added to a group chat in the social messaging application Telegram, where they were interviewed and hired by a Chinese national.

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However, upon arrival in Thailand, a foreign escort picked them up using a 4x4 vehicle. They travelled for 16 hours and stopped on a riverside to ride a boat, and were escorted by uniformed men until they arrived in the company where they were set to work.

It was only then that they found out that they were in Myanmar, and not in Thailand as what had been agreed on. They sought help from Philippine authorities through a former victim who was repatriated.

"We have observed that these human traffickers are preying on OFWs with expiring visas, particularly in the middle east, and are enticing them to work as call center agents in Asian countries," said Tansingco. "However we are now seeing that this is a human trafficking scheme, and the victims end up being forced to scam other people and are being subjected to physical torture," he added.

Tansingco then reminded aspiring OFWs to apply through the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to be able to legally work abroad.

At the same time, Ann Camille Mina, BI Travel Control and Enforcement Unit Chief, also reported the interception of four more victims who attempted to depart for Singapore.

The four were escorted by a female recruiter traveling with her four-year-old child. During the interview, the victims claimed that they were employees of a manpower agency, but had numerous inconsistent statements.

They eventually admitted that they paid their recruiter P10,000 each as down payment for their trip. The victims and their recruiter were all turned over to the IACAT for further investigation.

Tansingco renewed his warnings against job offers of illegal recruiters, saying that OFWs should not accept offers they receive via social media and should always secure work abroad through the DMW.