PETALING JAYA: At just 23, Alvin Kong was in the midst of building a successful career as an insurance agent.
Earning between RM6,000 and RM7,000 a month, he was the envy of many, but the young man from Miri, Sarawak, was not content.
When he heard of job offers overseas that promised more than twice his salary, he jumped on the opportunity to sign up.
Unbeknownst to him, he was headed into the jaws of a ruthless job scam syndicate that was recruiting unsuspecting Malaysians and other nationals to work as scam call operators.
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In a phone interview with The Star yesterday, the victim’s father, Kong Yong Ping, shared how his son left home to work in July last year, supposedly for a casino in the Philippines, but ended up in Bangkok and later at a scam call centre in Myanmar.
The 54-year-old renovation contractor said not long after Alvin left, he received a call from his distressed son, who pleaded to be rescued from the investment scam syndicate.
“When he found out he had to work as a scammer, he refused and wanted to leave, but the syndicate would not let him go.
“I lodged a police report here, but my son still remains in captivity. He calls me every now and then when he can.
“My only consolation is that he is safe and was not harmed, although he is forced to work long hours and is allowed very little sleep,” he said.
Kong said in September last year that the syndicate agreed to release his son if he paid a “compensation fee” of US$15,000 (RM71,000).
“I managed to raise the sum and transfer the funds to my son, who paid the syndicate. However, instead of releasing him, they sold him to another scam syndicate operating close to the Myanmar-China border,” said the exasperated father of five.
In December of last year, Kong made the decision to travel there in an attempt to rescue his son. However, after three weeks of tirelessly trying to persuade Thai and Myanmar authorities to search for Alvin, he returned home disheartened.
He said there are other Malaysians in the same shoes as his son.
According to Datuk Seri Michael Chong, the head of the MCA Public Services and Complaints Department, fewer Malaysians are falling for these syndicates’ lures as a result of various awareness campaigns and extensive media coverage.
“In the past six months, our department has handled only 10 cases.
“As for new cases, I believe while there are some who were naive and were lured, many others were fully aware they were being recruited to work at a scam call centre,” he said.
However, Malaysian International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) secretary-general Datuk Hishamuddin Hashim said that while anti-scam campaigns had raised awareness, there are those, especially from rural areas, who remain ignorant of such deception.
He said the MHO is handling at least 50 cases of Malaysians who were enticed and are being held overseas by syndicates, adding that cases in Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand have declined, but Myanmar remains rife with such cases.