The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has issued a stark warning for people traveling to Southeast Asia: Be wary of too-good-to-be-true job listings. It could be a scammer trying to lure travelers to cryptocurrency fraud compounds.
The public service announcement claims criminals target individuals on social media platforms and online employment sites. The scammers offer jobs in areas such as customer service or tech support, then sweeten the deal by promising competitive salaries, attractive bonuses, flexible hours, and free accommodation.
Once on location, travelers are coerced through the threat of violence and passport confiscation to participate in cryptocurrency investment fraud schemes, like pig butchering, says the FBI.
'Pig butchering' is the nickname given to scams involving criminals setting up a fake profile on social media or a dating app. Once they’ve earned a victim’s trust, or fattened the pig, they convince them to send money for a fake investment opportunity and disappear.
The fake jobs the FBI warned about get even more grim after the scammers have detained a duped tourist. The criminal assigns a “debt” to each victim—calling it travel fees, or room and board—and uses the victim’s debt and fear of local law enforcement to intimidate them into staying.
“Trafficked victims are sometimes sold and transferred between compounds, further adding to their debt,” the FBI said in its advisory.
The alert from the U.S. agency also includes a number of traveler tips in order for individuals to protect themselves: Research the company beforehand; enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP); and keep your family and friends up to date constantly.
Fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes are becoming more sophisticated over the years, with California regulators trying to stamp out recent use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to dupe investors and snag unsuspecting individuals. One such plan included a fake AI-generated CEO for YouTube.
Crypto scams have been on the rise this year. Earlier this year Web3 bug bounty project Immunefi reported that the number of hacks and scams in the crypto space has risen 192% in Q1 compared to last year.