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The Horrifying Reality of the Human Trafficking Scam Trade

July 20th, 2023
The Horrifying Reality of the Human Trafficking Scam Trade


For Immediate Release


Alarming Exponential Increase of Trafficking through Fake Job Ads Targeting White Collar Professionals, College Students: The Horrifying Reality of the Human Trafficking Scam Trade, Fuelling Online Scams such as the  “Pig Butchering Scam” that’s Gone Global.


21 July 2023, Hong Kong: The Mekong Club, a global nonprofit dedicated to addressing human trafficking and modern slavery in the Private Sector, is proud to announce its latest initiative to raise awareness and take action against the growing threat of human trafficking for the purpose of online scams, such as the widely reported  ‘Pig Butchering Scam’.  

The exponential proliferation of this dangerously manipulative form of human trafficking is posing a significant threat to tech savvy professionals and students, as well as vulnerable individuals globally. Criminal networks employ elaborate techniques to lure victims through fake job recruitment; these individuals are then trafficked into compounds across Southeast Asia, and forced under duress and threat to scam others from wealthy nations. The complex sophistication of this crime, a double-edged sword, involving trafficking and violence, alongside fraud, money laundering and crypto currency, makes it even more challenging for law enforcement and civil society to combat the criminal operations and help those affected. 


For the first time, an international collaboration will bring together global expertise to investigate and gather intelligence to produce a landmark publication on all the details and the ins and outs of the human trafficking scam trade.

The following organizations will collaborate with the Mekong Club: Humanity Research Consultancy, a social enterprise in the UK providing local evidence-based insights to empower policymakers to end human trafficking, and The Knoble, a nonprofit business association addressing fraud for financial institutions in the U.S., and the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative, a nonprofit in the U.S. utilizing technology to support financial institutions in fraud and human trafficking detection.


Key Points and Highlights:

  • Recent media reports have put a spotlight on an alarming increase in human trafficking to fuel online scams, with thousands of victims trapped in a cycle of physical and sexual violence, restriction of movement, debt bondage and other indicators of human trafficking and modern slavery, with many victims being sold for thousands to companies operating in the compounds, often via encrypted apps 
  • The crime involves the use of sophisticated tactics by criminal networks to deceive and manipulate vulnerable individuals, forcing them into illegal activities against their will.
  • The involvement of cryptocurrencies and money laundering further complicates the efforts of law enforcement to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks.
  • The criminal networks have developed intricate internet connections, making it challenging to identify where the compounds are located, allowing the traffickers to stay under the radar.
  • Critical recommendations are needed for law enforcement, national governments, and anti-trafficking organisations to better help prevent this type of trafficking and detect and support victims.
  • Key suggestions and more awareness are necessary to prevent others from becoming victims of sophisticated financial fraud, often using AI, linked to criminal activities.

Matthew Friedman, CEO of The Mekong Club says:The issue of human trafficking into scam centers has resulted in an unprecedented horrific new wave of crime that is having a devastating impact on the trafficking victims and the scam victims. Unless immediate action is taken, this insidious new type of human trafficking will continue to proliferate. To prevent hundreds of others from being ensnared, we must all act now.

Mina Chiang, Founder & Director of Humanity Research Consultancy, said:Understanding the emerging industrial scale scam fuelled by human trafficking is only the beginning of the journey to understand this unscrupulous criminal industry and the extent it destabilises the region. Criminals are fast, adaptive, and resourceful – the counter-human trafficking world has to catch up fast.” 

Larry Cameron, CISO of the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative, said: “Special Economic Zones have been created to protect criminals, and we must all work together to dismantle these criminal networks. This is an immensely challenging task, but despite these difficulties, several strategies can be pursued. It will require strong international pressure, sanctions, Information sharing, engagement, public awareness, and more seizures of their assets and funds. We need to make sure they are accountable and expose them to these human rights abuses and bring the victims justice. The victims’ and communities’ safety and well-being should be prioritised to create meaningful change.”

Access Publication Here

Notes to editors:

Matt Friedman, CEO of The Mekong Club, is a global expert on modern slavery and human trafficking. As an award-winning keynote speaker, filmmaker and author, Matt regularly advises heads of governments and intelligence agencies. Matt is considered the leading catalyst of the anti-slavery movement in Asia’s business sector by captains of industry.

Founded in 2012, The Mekong Club works closely with the private sector to bring sustainable practices against modern slavery across the globe. Their business association members include small, medium, and multinational brands across multiple industries globally. The Mekong Club regularly convenes executives from these companies to discuss key trends, challenges, and opportunities for collaboration. They work confidentially with companies to understand where their anti-slavery strategies stand in relation to industry standards, sharing best practices and practical recommendations. Furthermore, The Mekong Club develops innovative tools based on the real-world insights from their members, and resources to further industry-wide responses to modern slavery trends and challenges.

The Mekong Club has been awarded three international awards: the Stop Slavery Innovation Award, Asia Gold Award, and USAID’s Evidence2Action Award. These were granted to The Mekong Club’s development of AppriseAudit, a groundbreaking app that helps identify potential victims of forced labour and improve workers’ interviews during social compliance audits. This harnessed technology aims to eliminate modern slavery through working with the brands’ global supply chains and supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Develop Goals (SDGs).