Police in the Philippines have rescued over 1,000 people who were held captive and forced to run online crypto scams.
Reports indicate that the victims were trafficked into the country from several Asian nations and were coerced into promoting fraudulent crypto investments.
The Philippine National Police arrested at least 12 suspected ringleaders believed to be affiliated with the Colorful and Leap Group.
Crypto scams have become increasingly prevalent in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, with victims lured in with promises of online jobs, free flights, and accommodation.
Once in the country, their passports were confiscated, and they were made to work up to 18 hours daily, with salary deductions for taking breaks.
According to the Philippine National Police anti-cybercrime group spokesperson, Michelle Sabino, workers were trained to entice strangers into buying crypto assets or depositing money into bogus bank accounts after establishing fake romantic relationships.
The victims were mostly Vietnamese and Chinese, with Filipinos, Indonesians, and Malays also being enticed into running online crypto scams.
CertiK, a blockchain security firm, reported that crypto scams resulted in losses of more than $100 million in April alone.
The increase in online scams has been largely due to exit scams, where bad actors abscond with money from investors.
According to Guy Rosen, the Chief Security Officer of Meta, scammers are latching on to the hype surrounding AI (artificial intelligence) to orchestrate scams and distribute malware.
The rescue of these trafficking victims is a critical step toward ending the exploitation of vulnerable people in the crypto industry.