MCA helps teen escape clutches of Macau scammers

JOHOR BARU: A 17-year-old school dropout, who was promised a lucrative job “just to chat with people”, spent a year in misery when he ended up in Laos working as a scammer.

The boy, who was held captive in a building that was guarded by armed men, was forced to make calls every day similar to the modus operandi of a Macau syndicate.

He never got paid.

In fact, he would be beaten up and even electrocuted if he did not meet the target.

His ordeal finally came to an end when he was rescued and brought back to Malaysia, thanks to the help of Tebrau MCA Youth chief Teow Chia Ling.

Relating the case, Teow said they found out about the case after the boy’s grandmother, who is from Ulu Tiram, told them about the plight of her grandson whom the family earlier thought had run away from home.

But in April last year, the boy called his grandmother out of the blue, saying that he was in Laos and needed help to return home.

Teow spent almost six months keeping in touch with the boy as they sorted out ways to get him out of the situation.

She acknowledged that they were initially sceptical of the boy’s account, worried that perhaps he was trying to scam his grandmother.

Eventually, it was discovered that the boy, together with some of his friends, had entered Laos via Thailand.

“The boy did not have a passport so they would have used illegal land routes to get to Laos,” she said.

Once he got there, he was immediately put to work in a call centre.

At one point, Teow said the boy managed to use a mobile phone at the call centre to message his grandmother in Johor.

Teow, who is also a Johor Baru city councillor, said she helped the grandmother with the police reports and also to liaise with the Malaysian embassy in Laos.

“This took more than six months. But in January, the boy could no longer bear the torture. He decided to sneak out of the premises, taking with him a mobile phone,” she added.

Teow said she guided the boy on finding a way to get to the embassy.

He spent two weeks wandering on his own until he managed to reach the embassy, she added.

“The embassy staff were helpful and arranged for documents for him to leave Laos.

“I managed to raise funds to purchase a flight ticket and pay off some debts that the boy incurred while staying on his own in Laos,” she said.

On Feb 24, the boy was finally reunited with his grandparents in Ulu Tiram.

Teow recalled how she was constantly on the phone with the boy when he boarded the flight from Laos to Bangkok.

“He did not know anything about airports or boarding gates as he had never travelled anywhere. Somehow with the help of good Samaritans along the way, he managed to arrive in Malaysia,” she said.

When asked about the boy’s parents or siblings, Teow said he has a younger sister.

His mother had died of Covid-19.

“We believe that the father, who was jobless, was also tricked into going to Laos and is in the same syndicate’s hands,” she said, appealing to the public to always carry out due diligence before taking up any so-called high-paying jobs abroad.

She added that the boy was lucky to be able to make it home.

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