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Economic Terrorism: The Dark Connection between Scam Centres and Human Trafficking

November 24th, 2023

The term “terrorism” often conjures images of violent extremist groups, political ideologies, and acts of mass destruction. However, it’s essential to recognise that terrorism can manifest in various forms, including those that are less apparent but equally as devastating. This blog post aims to shed light on the disturbing nature of human trafficking within scam centres and make a compelling case that the activities implemented by the criminal networks running these scam centres constitute acts of terrorism.


Part I: The Ties That Bind

To comprehend the link between terrorism and human trafficking within the scam centres, we must first understand the broader context of terrorism. Terrorism, at its core, involves the use of violence or coercion to achieve a political, ideological, and at times financial gain. While traditional forms of terrorism often involve large-scale attacks, the modern landscape has evolved to include activities that exploit the vulnerabilities of our global society.


Human trafficking is one such vulnerability. Defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons through force, coercion, or deception for the purpose of exploitation, it is a grave violation of human rights. Human trafficking can take place in various forms, including forced labour, sexual exploitation, and, as we will delve into further, involvement in scam centres.


Part II: Unmasking the Scam Centres

Workers travel to foreign destinations in response to job ads. They arrive only to find themselves caught in a trap. The vulnerable inbound workers have their passports taken from them and are forced into scam operations. These are scam centres run by human trafficking criminal networks. This is a new form of forced labour slavery called ‘forced scamming’.


Scam centres run operations designed to defraud individuals through deception, often involving impersonation, manipulation, and false information. These centres have proliferated, thanks to the anonymity provided by the internet and the development of telecommunication technology. While scam methods may differ from traditional acts of terrorism, their effects are no less devastating.


It’s important to highlight that there are two types of victims involved in this complex crime. First, there are foreign nationals from developing countries who are replying to fake recruitment ads published by the criminals. They are forced to work in the scam centres, defrauding people – the second type of victim – via deceptive schemes, such as romance scams, investment scams, etc.


Economic Terrorism: One facet of this crime encompasses the victims, often located in developed countries, who fall prey to deceptive schemes orchestrated by the victims of human trafficking. These individuals are defrauded, resulting in financial devastation that extends far beyond monetary loss. The consequences of such fraud can destabilise lives, leaving individuals in turmoil.


Psychological Warfare: A second dimension involves the victims of human trafficking who are recruited through legitimate job recruitment platforms and then coerced into participating in the scam centre operations. These victims endure not only physical abuse, but also severe psychological and emotional trauma. The toll on these victims is profound, leaving them in a perpetual state of anxiety, depression, profound distrust of others, and lacking legal protection for the acts of crime they were forced to perform, resulting in unjust prosecution in their home countries and abroad.


People for Profit: Within the sinister context of scam centres, an even darker facet emerges – the pervasive and malevolent crime known as ‘harmcore’. This disturbing practice exploits the victims of human trafficking, who have been enslaved into these fraudulent operations, becoming ensnared in an unrelenting cycle of exploitation that transcends the realm of financial scams. ‘Harmcore’ constitutes a disturbing form of terrorism in its own right, wherein these victims, forced to defraud other victims, are subjected to unimaginable acts of abuse and torture in front of the cameras. Videos capturing their anguish are ruthlessly sold to internet users for profit, perpetuating the cycle. Those subjected to ‘harmcore’ are often those who have underperformed in their scam activities, or have refused to participate, or have sought to escape from the clutches of the scam centres. This abhorrent crime, thriving within the heart of scam operations, represents a grave violation of human rights and demands our utmost attention and action.


(Source: Humanity Research Consultancy)



Part III: The Connection Revealed


Evidence that human trafficking within the scam centres is a form of terrorism can be seen when we examine the methods criminal networks use to “recruit” staff to perform the criminal activities.

  1. Human Capital: Criminals often recruit and employ recent graduate students or working professionals through legitimate job recruitment platforms or social media networks for overseas work. These individuals are coerced, manipulated, or forced into participating in these criminal enterprises till they’ve paid a ransom fee for their release, often exceeding US $10,000.
  2. Global Networks: Scam centres operate inside extensive global networks. The recruitment, transportation, and movement of individuals across borders are integral to their operations. Myanmar, where the rule of law has diminished due to the coup, is just one of many havens for these centres to openly exist. The transnational nature of this criminal activity mirrors the global reach of traditional terrorist organisations.
  3. Enabling Infrastructure: Just as terrorists require an infrastructure to plan and execute their attacks, scam centres rely on technological infrastructure, such as fraudulent investment platforms, telecommunication, and artificial intelligence, to avoid detection and to carry out their activities. These tools enable networks to reach out to victims worldwide, to recruit victims of human trafficking, and to defraud victims in order to amplify their impact.


Part IV: The Consequences and What is Needed


The consequences of overlooking the connection between human trafficking within scam centres and terrorism are dire. By failing to recognise these activities as acts of terrorism, we inadvertently downplay their significance and hinder the efforts to combat them effectively.


  1. Economic Destabilisation: The scale of money laundering stemming from these scams is reaching unprecedented levels, surpassing the funding available for addressing both terrorism and human trafficking combined on a global scale. Particularly alarming is the ease with which criminals operating in developing countries, where corruption may be rampant, can use the illicit gains from trafficking victims forced to scam, and from defrauding victims in developed countries, and use the profits generated to buy the silence and complicity of law enforcement officials, governments, regulators, and agencies, thus enabling the criminal ecosystem to continue its existence. This vicious cycle not only perpetuates the criminal networks but also poses a significant risk of destabilising entire economies. The influx of illicit funds can undermine the integrity of financial institutions, erode trust in government authorities, and exacerbate economic inequality, ultimately threatening the economic stability of a nation. The urgent need to combat the financial aspect cannot be overstated, as its unchecked growth could have dire consequences for the global financial system and the well-being of countless individuals.
  2. Legal Framework: Designating human trafficking within scam centres as terrorism would provide legal authorities with a more robust framework to pursue and prosecute these criminals. This could lead to more international cooperation in apprehending offenders.
  3. Resource Allocation: Recognising this connection would enable governments and organisations to allocate resources more effectively for the prevention of money laundering, targeting not only the symptoms but also the root causes of these crimes.
  4. Public Awareness: Increased awareness of the terrorist nature of these activities may empower individuals and communities to protect themselves, friends, and loved ones, thereby reducing the prevalence of victims of human trafficking within scam centres or of victims of fraud.


The connection between human trafficking within scam centres and terrorism is not a mere coincidence but a deeply intertwined relationship. Both are fuelled by greed, exploitation, and a disregard for human rights. By acknowledging the terrorist quality inherent in these activities, we can mobilise the international community to combat them with the urgency and seriousness they deserve.


Addressing human trafficking within scam centres as acts of terrorism requires a multifaceted approach, including legal reforms, international cooperation, and public awareness campaigns. Only by confronting this issue head-on can we hope to protect the vulnerable, bring the criminal actors to justice, and disrupt the networks that perpetuate these heinous crimes.


If you want to contribute to the solution, please consider donating to our crowdsourcing campaign for an international short film. This film aims to raise awareness and prevent more individuals from falling victim to false recruitment opportunities that lead to human trafficking within scam centres. Your support can make a significant contribution to protecting thousands of potential victims.

Make a Difference – Be Part of the Solution – Donate Today

Author – Nolan Clack

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