Students trapped by online money making scams

By Luu Quy   January 22, 2023 | 10:41 pm PT
Students trapped by online money making scams
The website’s interface Cam Thanh worked on as an online collaborator. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy
Hoping to earn some money as an “online collaborator” before Tet (the Lunar New Year), Cam Thanh was scammed and is saddled with a debt of VND50 million (US$2,119).

After she posted on a series of recruitment sites in the hope of earning some money to help her family during the Lunar New Year, which lasts from 20-26, the 19-year-old freshman in a HCMC university was contacted by a person, who offered the job of "increasing video likes for partners."

She was added to a Telegram chat group, and her team leader asked her to garner likes for videos and would get VND5,000 per like, she was told.

If she fulfilled an additional task, the payment would triple to VND15,000 plus a 10-30% of the profits on orders placed.

She had to deposit VND100,000-700,000 to the system to convert into an account on a website.

"The first day I joined, I made a profit of nearly VND1 million, paid directly to my account. That was the first big amount of money I earned," Thanh said.

On the second day, Thanh was given more "opportunities" by the team leader, but also asked to paying tens of millions of dong.

Thanh used the first day’s profit, added VND3 million in existing savings and borrowed friends to pay for the system.

However, at this time, the "goods ordering" tasks became complex, requiring more operations, while the time was shortened.

Once, under the excuse of her wrong operation, the system locked her account. She was then instructed by the team leader to "compensate" by performing a task with a larger amount of money.

Thanh accepted to transfer money several times as requested, with the biggest amount of VND28 million.

When wanting to withdraw her money, she was asked to pay VND55 million.

At this point, Thanh was broke and began to realize she could have been cheated.

In two days, she transferred a total of nearly VND50 million, mostly borrowed money, to the system.

"I was extremely vigilant but still cheated. This Tet, I will return to HCMC soon to study and earn money to pay the debt," she said.

Ngoc Duy, a second-year university student in Hanoi, has not dared to go home to celebrate Tet due to a debt of nearly VND20 million after working as an "online collaborator."

Duy said it was the money he borrowed from his family.

He was asked by the system to verify his identity by sending personal information such as citizen identification, phone number, and email.

"I am also worried about my personal information potentially used for bad purposes. I am in no mood for Tet," he said.

Security expert Ngo Minh Hieu, founder of the Anti-Phishing project, said since the beginning of January, the project has received dozens of reports from student victims being scammed when working as "online collaborators."

"Most of them are first-timers. They have no money, and little experience, so they are easily lured into such things," he said.

Most people who want to earn more money during Tet are not too rich. Most of the money paid to the systems are loans.

According to Hieu, although the "collaborator" scams are not new, they constantly change in form so many people are still be trapped.

The accounts behind the systems are all anonymous ones, using fake photos and fake documents, so victims have difficulty in tracing them, he said.

Since late last month, the Ministry of Public Security has sent a warning message to people about scams that flourish during Tet, including three major tricks: recruiting collaborators, impersonating organizations, and impersonating law enforcement agencies.

In all the three cases, users are asked to pay money to the systems with increasingly bigger amounts, or provide bank account details and personal information.

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