KUALA LUMPUR: Expecting to earn a high pay overseas, two teenage friends who answered an online job advertisement ended up working 12-hour shifts for scammers in Myanmar.
They managed to return home safely on Friday – but not before their families paid RM10,000 to a human-trafficking syndicate for their release, ending their three-month ordeal.
The syndicate agreed to let them go because it could not find a use for the duo, aged 14 and 15, who had failed to reach the scamming targets set out for them.
The victims from Bera, Pahang, arrived in Malaysia after various matters, including documentation, were settled.
Recalling their ordeal, the 15-year-old boy said he was attracted by advertisements on Facebook and Instagram offering a “customer service job” with a monthly salary of between RM5,000 and RM7,000.
“I was drawn by the high salary and I also wanted more freedom.
“My buddy and I were brought to Myanmar on March 22, where we were kept at a compound in Marwadi,” he told a press conference organised by MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong at Wisma MCA here yesterday.
The boy only realised that he had been duped when he was forced to work as a “love scammer”.
“The syndicate gave me a booklet on things to say and told me to charm the victims, who are Chinese nationals overseas, living as far as in the United States.
“I was forced to work from midnight until noon daily and I was given about RM900 as food allowance,” he said, adding that the syndicate’s compound was patrolled by armed guards.
As for lodgings, the victim said he was placed in a room of six people, and there were many people, including Malaysians, staying there.
“I also saw other people being punished when they failed to do their job; some of them were tasered. Luckily, both of us were spared such treatment as we were too young,” he added.
After about a week working, neither victim managed to meet any target set by the syndicate.
“We begged the ‘bosses’ to let us go and they eventually did on April 2 after our families paid a RM10,000 ransom,” he said.
Chong said the captors had initially demanded 300,000 yuan (RM199,000) but agreed to lower the amount to RM10,000 after some negotiation over the phone.
“It was likely they were also pressured by media coverage on human trafficking, so they wanted to get rid of the boys as quickly as possible,” he said.
The boys were later taken to Thailand and placed at a hotel in the border town of Mae Sot.
“A friend who is a Thai-based businessman handled their lodgings and meals,” he added.
The friend took care of the boys for about two months and assisted with the documentation with the help of Thai and Malaysian authorities, Chong said.
“They were then brought to Bangkok and placed at an immigration detention centre while their documentation was being prepared.
“After three weeks at the detention centre, their documents were ready with the help of the Malaysian Embassy in Thailand and they were sent home on Friday,” he said.
Chong said the department had received 78 reports of Malaysians being duped overseas by syndicates.
“These involve 63 men and 15 women. Of the total, 15 have returned. Eight others are still at a prison in Cambodia and we hope they will be returned soon.
“We urge Malaysians to be more vigilant and not accept such dubious job offers overseas,” he added.