MANILA, March 1, 2011 (AFP) – International crime syndicates are increasingly using social networking sites such as Facebook to lure Filipinos into becoming drug mules, Philippine authorities warned Tuesday.
Recently caught drug traffickers have reported making initial contact with their foreign employers through a range of Internet forums, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Derrick Arnold Carreon said.
“Somebody can ‘like’ you on Facebook, or request to be a friend and the next thing you know you are frequently chatting with them, and eventually they will offer you travels abroad,” Carreon told AFP.
“This is now one of the most common modes of online recruitment being used by international drug syndicates.
“It’s not just on Facebook, but any online medium or social networking site. It is becoming a worrying trend.”
Carreon said people from impoverished countries, such as the Philippines, were highly susceptible to promises of making quick profits and the chance to escape harsh economic realities at home.
They are then forced into becoming drug mules, a term used for people trafficking drugs, often by swallowing them or by hiding them inside their private parts, Carreon said.
Their plight was recently in the spotlight after the Philippines secured a stay of execution for three Filipino drug traffickers sentenced to death in China.
Filipino authorities appealed for mercy, saying the mules were from poor backgrounds and were themselves victims of the drug syndicates.
There are 22.65 million Filipinos on Facebook, making the Philippines the fifth largest market for the popular social networking site, according to online trends specialist CheckFacebook.com.