Human Trafficking has been a significant concern and threat to society for a very long time. The aspects of our physical safety also have been influenced by human traffickers and the modus operandi they have adopted and deployed over the years. We are always cautious of younger children in regard to trafficking whenever we go out to crowded or unknown places. This concern and threat have also migrated to cyberspace and now pose new and different tangents of threats. These crimes are committed using technology and are further substantiated by different cybercrimes.
What is Cyber-Enabled Human Trafficking?
Cyber-enabled human trafficking is the new evolution of human trafficking in the digital age. Bad actors lure the victims via the internet and use social engineering to exploit their vulnerabilities to get them into their traps. In today’s time, crime is often substantiated in lieu of fake job offers and a better lifestyle in new and major metropolitan cities. Now this crime has gone beyond the geographical boundaries of our nation, and often the victims end up in remote locations in the Middle East or South East Asia.
Cybercrime Hubs in Myanmar
The reports have indicated that a lot of trafficked victims are taken down to various cybercrime hubs in Myanmar. The victims are often lured on the pretext of job offers overseas, which pay handsomely. The victims make their way into the foreign nation but are then cornered by the bad actors and are segregated and taken into different hubs. The victims are often school graduates and seek basic jobs for their earnings. The victims are taken into Cybercrime hubs which Chinese syndicate criminals allegedly run.
The victims are kept in tough conditions, beaten up, and held captive in remote jungles. Once the victim has lost hope, the criminals train them to commit cyber frauds like phishing. The victims are given scripts and mobile numbers to commit cybercrimes. The victims are given targets to ensure their survival, and due to the dark and threatening conditions, the victims just give up on the demands just to remain alive. Some of the victims make their way back home as well, but that is after 6-7 years of such constant torture and abuse to commit cybercrimes. The majority of such survivors face trouble seeking legal assistance as the criminals are almost impossible to track, thus making redressal for crimes and rehabilitation for survivors tough.
How to stay safe?
The criminals in such acts often target the vulnerable sector of the population, these people generally hail from tier 3 towns and rural areas. These victims aspire for a better life and earning opportunities, and due to less education and minimal awareness, they fail to see the traps set by the victims. The population at large can deploy the following measures and safe practices to avoid such horrific threats-
- Avoid Stranger interaction: Avoid interacting with strangers on any online platform or portal. Social media sites are the most used platforms by bad actors to make contact with potential victims.
- Do not Share: Avoid sharing any personal information with anyone online, and avoid filling out third-party surveys/forms seeking personal information.
- Check, Check and Recheck: Always be on alert for threats and always check and cross-check any link or platform you use or access.
- Too good to be true: If something feels like Too good to be true, it probably is and hence avoid falling for attractive job offers and work-from-home opportunities on social media platforms.
- Know your helplines: One should know the helpline numbers to make sure to exercise the reporting duty and also encourage your family members to report in case of any threat or issue.
- Raise Awareness: It is the duty of all netizens to raise awareness in society to arm more people against cybercrimes and fraud.
The name of cybercriminals is spreading all across the ecosystems, and now the technology is being deployed by such bad actors to even substantiate physical crimes. We need to be on alert and remain aware of such crimes and the modus Operandi of cyber criminals. Awareness and education are our best weapons to combat the threats and issues of cyber-enabled human trafficking, as the criminals feed on our vulnerabilities, lets eradicate them for once and for all and work towards creating a wholesome safe cyber ecosystem for all.
Author: Mr. Abhishek Singh, Lead – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace