real life

'I thought I was going for a job in Thailand. I ended up being sold into a scam farm.'

Content warning: This post includes graphic depictions of violence that may be distressing to some readers.

When Miriam boarded a plane to Thailand, she was filled with excitement for her future.

She believed she was heading overseas to take on a prestigious data analysis role. Instead, she was about to face a terrifying ordeal at what can only be described as a "scam farm." 

Sharing her incredible story of survival on the What It Was Like podcast, Miriam — a highly educated 27-year-old woman from Morocco who speaks five languages — is shining a light on a dark and rapidly growing industry.

"I was excited to go and discover things," she told podcast host Julian Morgans.

Her journey began in Turkey, where she met her neighbour — a fellow Moroccan — and developed a friendship. He introduced her to what appeared to be an incredible job opportunity in Thailand, promising a good salary, commissions, and covered living expenses. It was an enticing offer, and Miriam agreed to an interview over Zoom.

Watch: woman's incredible survival story of escaping modern slavery. Post continues below.

Video via The Project.

The job interview seemed normal and completely professional, and Miriam felt hopeful, fighting hard to secure what she believed was the job opportunity of a lifetime.


"Who doesn't want to go to Thailand? It's a dream for everybody to visit that country, and I was really very excited," she said.

Despite a niggling sense of doubt in the back of her mind, Miriam trusted her neighbour — so she went ahead and accepted the job.

The nightmare begins.

Upon arriving in Bangkok, Miriam was met by a man in a security uniform who escorted her and her neighbour out a side door of the airport, bypassing customs.

This was her first red flag.

"We grabbed the car, and then I don't know what happened, but I fell asleep in the car," she recounted, adding that she suspects she was drugged. When she woke up, she was miles away from Bangkok, on a highway with no buildings or traffic in sight.

Her Moroccan friend, who had seemed so supportive before the trip, had seemingly stolen her phone and money while she slept.

As the car continued to drive Miriam's concern grew. They crossed a river, and while she was told they were still in Thailand, in reality, she later discovered this to be a lie. As they pulled up to a compound surrounded by jungle and fields, Miriam says that despite the surrounds, she relaxed a little to see a place that looked somewhat normal with its restaurants, gym, and even a casino.

"It looked like a small community, people were living there. There are even families there, children in a lot of restaurants," Miriam said. 

Her initial relief quickly turned to horror when she discovered the truth. "After two weeks, I discovered that I'm not in Thailand," she told Morgans.

"I am in Burma."


The 'scam farm'.

Miriam's realisation that she had been taken across the border from Thailand into Myanmar (formerly Burma) came after another Moroccan living in the compound showed her their location on a map. She was in a 'scam farm' — a place where people are forced to run elaborate scams targeting individuals worldwide. 

Miriam learned that the compound housed various different companies, each specialising in specific types of scams.

Miriam's company focused on scamming Americans using cryptocurrency exchange apps.

It was structured like a factory, she said, with the thousands of workers there divided into groups. The lowest group, known as the 'typers,' initiated scam conversations using Google Translate. Above them were the 'models,' higher-value slaves who spoke good English, such as Miriam.

She was forced to pretend to be a wealthy entrepreneur, luring victims into investing in fake cryptocurrency schemes. "I [needed] to talk with emotion. I [needed] to act like I am that character," Miriam said of her designated role at the scam farm.

Miriam's life became a nightmare, forced to trick people into parting with their money. Meanwhile, the companies' management team, including the Chinese owners, constantly monitored the workers and doled out brutal punishments for even the smallest mistakes.

But while she witnessed heartbreaking situations where her victims, often lonely and vulnerable, lost everything, she also spoke to a lot of men she said "deserved" to be scammed.

"I saw a lot of men divorcing their wives for those fake accounts," she said, reflecting on the desperation of those she scammed. However, she also felt deep sadness for others, like an old man who called her from a hospital bed seeking comfort from someone he was unaware was part of a cruel deception.


Her first escape attempt.

One day, Miriam's understanding of just how dangerous a situation she was in dawned.

"I opened my bedroom window for the first time and heard something strange. I heard electricity from a distance and a man screaming so hard. That's when I knew something was very wrong."

Miriam recorded the horrifying sounds of a man being stunned with a taser, all while loud Asian pop music blasted by the compound in what seemed to be an attempt to disguise the noise of the torture.

Miriam was desperate to escape. She contacted a manager who told her, "I need you to send $2,000. I will buy you back... and take you away."

Miriam was shocked and confused. "We sold you to the Chinese for $1,000," he explained casually, referring to the criminal gang that ran the operation. The revelation that she had been sold like a piece of property was devastating. "It's so awful that somebody gives themselves the power to use you like you're a chair or table."

But Miriam's attempts to buy her freedom failed. The manager pocketed the money and informed the management team, who targeted Miriam for punishment.

But they wouldn't do so without something they deemed cause. "They were waiting for me to make a mistake," she recalled. That mistake came in the form of Miriam forgetting to charge her phone overnight, leading to a dead battery — and her accidentally oversleeping, missing the start of her 'workday'.

She was handcuffed, fined $500, and subjected to brutal torture, she says. "They beat me with whips, leaving cuts all over my body," she revealed. She was then handcuffed to a fence for three days, deprived of food and sleep, and witnessed others being tortured alongside her.


After she was returned from her punishment, Miriam managed to contact her parents, sending a photograph of her brutal wounds sent via an iPhone she'd been given when she arrived at the compound. They immediately sought help and a Thai-based NGO, Global Advance Projects, stepped in. 

They had connections with a rebel group in Myanmar, and through these channels, orchestrated Miriam's escape. She was driven back to the Thai-Myanmar border and met by workers from Global Advance Projects, who helped her get to safety.

"I was happy and sad all at the same time when I finally saw my family again," Miriam said.

The aftermath.

Speaking to Morgans about the weeks and months that followed her ordeal, Miriam said, "I couldn't survive it alone. So I had to go to a doctor to talk to someone professional and go through a psychiatric treatment to be able to sleep and eat.

"I'm getting better day after day. It still hurts, but less than before."

While the trauma of her experience lingers, and she feels guilt for those left behind, Miriam is now determined to raise awareness and help others trapped in similar situations.

"Talking about it and sharing information can help protect others," she urged. 

"Everybody needs to know about it, to protect themselves, protect their children and stop this."

You can listen to Miriam's full story on the What It Was Like podcast.

Feature Image: Getty.