Gov’t’s anti-trafficking group traces Pogos’ link to scamming
MANILA, Philippines — The government’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) on Tuesday confirmed a senator’s claim that legitimate Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (Pogos) provide a “legal cover” to scam hubs.
Presiding over the hearing of the Senate committee on women, Senator Risa Hontiveros asserted that “scam hubs hide under the licenses of Pogos.”
Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty of the IACAT confirmed this when he made a report to the committee looking into reported human trafficking and cyber fraud operations in the country.
“The establishment is usually registered as a legitimate Pogo business or a service provider for Pogos but is wholly or partly, partially involved in online cryptocurrency scamming,” Ty said.
According to him, workers are hired through online job postings—mostly on Facebook Telegram and Whatsapp. They are recruited as call center agents with a promise of high salary and good working conditions, he also said.
“But it turns out they are forced to engage in criminal activities such as scamming,” Ty said.
Far from the traditional victims profiles, he said, trafficking victims are typically young (18 years old to 35 years old), tech savvy, multilingual, and educated.
“The modus operandi involves confiscation of the passports and the movements outside are restricted so these scam hubs typically they are in complexes that are walled with barbed wires that are subject to security,” the IACAT official also said.
Ty said the victims were also mostly males but they were ordered by their handlers “to pretend to be attractive women in a dating site and entice their clients to invest in fake cryptocurrency.”
Violators or workers wanting to leave would be locked in a “dark room” for days and would be given only one meal a day as earlier revealed by Hontiveros.
After Ty’s presentation, Hontiveros remarked, “You did confirm that legitimate Pogo license holders provide a legal cover or layer for these scam hubs and you have data supporting this right?”
But Ty said the IACAT does not have “collated data” of Pogos “suspected of engaging in human trafficking.”
“May be we can refer that to Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation,” he said.
Ty nevertheless identified Paranaque and Clark in Pampanga as “scam hub hotspots” in the country.