When the job is too good to pass up

Healing turns to nightmare: Santoso planned to escape his personal problems by applying for a job located in Laos, but it turned out to be a scam (JP/Yohana Belinda). (JP/Yohana Belinda)

“It was all my fault, my stupidity in accepting the job as a scammer since I needed to run away from my life after dealing with some personal issues,” says Santoso, an English literature graduate.

He had intended to pursue a higher education degree by applying for a master’s in film or a working holiday visa to Melbourne and to pay for it he accepted an “administrative job” offering a monthly salary of 17 million rupiah (RM5,230) in the Golden Triangle area of Laos.

From April 2022 to November 2022, he operated in Bokeo province, which he described as a “mafia aquarium”.

He worked as a fraudster conning people in the United States into investing in a fake cryptoscheme.

After a few months he was sickened by his job but was forced to pay a ransom amounting to 80 million rupiah (RM24,600) to his employers to escape.

If not they threatened to toss him into the Mekong River.

All of his savings went toward the ransom demanded by his company.

The number of victims of such illegal job postings increased considerably during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Yusuf Ardabili, a legal aid staffer at Migrant Care, an NGO that supports Indonesian migrant workers.

He mentioned several sorts of occupations that are traps for Indonesians, ranging from “administrative positions” in the online gambling industry to employment as domestic servants.

Yusuf confirms that most people are unaware they are likely to work for a bogus company or become con artists but they are often desperate to find a job.

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Indonesia’s unemployment rate stood at 5.86% in August 2022, leaving at least 8.42 million unemployed across Indonesia.

As a result, many people, especially the unemployed and underemployed, turn to social media for opportunities but the advent of social networking has brought nightmares rather than rewards.

Pandemic impact Yusuf says that last year Migrant Care received reports of 189 cases of individuals being lured into fraudulent jobs.

According to the research, the majority of victims who were trafficked in countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines were male (91.8%).

“Many recent graduates and those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, may have been tempted by a job postings offering between 8 million rupiah and 30 million rupiah (RM2,460 and RM9,225),” Yusuf says during a Zoom interview.

The salaries posted by the fraudulent companies are almost double or triple regional minimum wages (UMR). Citing Kompas, the highest UMR in the country is in Karawang regency a 5.17 million rupiah (RM1,590) followed by Bekasi city at 5.15 million rupiah (RM1,580).

Santoso is not the only one to fall victim to fraudulent or illicit companies.

Previously, The Jakarta Post interviewed Jaya, who chose not to divulge his real name, a former ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver trafficked to Myanmar after accepting an online post for a “sales marketing” role in a Thailand investment firm.

The business was a “love scamming” company, the job being to steal money from people by pretending to be in love with them.

The scam is also known as “pig-butchering”, whereby con artists win their victims’ faith by making grand promises of love and financial prosperity.

Yusuf warns that the current social media job postings can trap the unwary, especially since many fraudulent businesses are carbon copies of legitimate ones.

He says that the fraudulent firms’ recruitment practices are identical to legitimate enterprises. They have got everything covered, from HR to PR to social media.

The victims are not informed of the nature of their employment until they arrive at the bogus organisations.

Identifying and avoiding social media job scams has a long way to go.

Devi Ariyani, executive director of the Indonesia Services Dialogue, warns that the government and society cannot focus solely on one aspect while combating cybercrime.

She states that cybercrime has evolved to several platforms, such as job postings on social media, phishing emails, and phone calls.

Thus, she asserts that agencies such as the Communications and Information Ministry, the National Cyber and Encryption Agency and the police must collaborate with other stakeholders, including social media platforms and telecommunications companies. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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