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250 rescued from cyber fraud centres abroad: Ministry of External Affairs | #cybercrime | #infosec | #hacking | #aihp

The Union government is “collaborating closely” with Cambodian authorities and has rescued about 250 Indians from Cambodia, who had been lured there by cyber fraud and fake online recruitment scams, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Saturday. About 75 of them have returned to India over the past three months.

The return of the Indians comes as investigating agencies launched a nationwide operation against agents — many of them believed to be linked to companies in China — that operate in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to recruit job seekers across South Asia and South East Asia on the promise of working in the information technology industry there. Once they go abroad, the recruits are instead forced to work in cyber fraud centres, and coerced into defrauding others over the telephone and online. 

“Our Embassy in Cambodia has been promptly responding to complaints from Indian nationals who were lured with employment opportunities to that country but were forced to undertake illegal cyber work,” the MEA said in a statement on Saturday. “We are also working with Cambodian authorities and with agencies in India to crack down on those responsible for these fraudulent schemes,” it added.

Warnings for job-seekers

The statement followed reports that the MEA has been coordinating with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and law enforcement agencies to help bring back about 300 of those who have reached out to the Indian Embassy in Pnom Penh. In January this year, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) and the MHA had said that about half of the 5,000 calls received on the cybercrime helplines on an average day relate to such scams involving companies based in Cambodia and Myanmar, linked mainly to Chinese apps. 

The MEA and the Indian Embassy have issued several advisories warning job-seekers against accepting such job offers. “All Indian nationals who are travelling to jobs in Cambodia and the South East Asia region are advised that there are many fake agents operating in the region, who along with the agents in India, are luring people to scam companies, involved especially in cyber crimes,” said one such advisory, counselling the job-seekers to only go through authorised agents approved by the MEA.

Over the past year, police in several Indian States, including Odisha, Punjab, and Kerala, have made arrests in such cases. Officials conceded that there were likely to be many more victims across South East Asia, but said that they were working mainly with those who have reached out to Indian embassies abroad, and those whom the local police officials in those countries have managed to rescue.

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