June 25, 2024

Setting the Scene

In Mexico, enticing adverts for high-paying call center positions are trapping job seekers into becoming extortionists for unscrupulous loan apps like CashBox and Súper Préstamo.

  • Recruitment processes target young job seekers via Facebook groups.
  • Employees are trained to harass and intimidate clients who miss payments.
  • The lack of jobs for young people is fueling this call center exploitation.

Authored by Diana Baptista

In Mexico City, Karen, a 28-year-old who was unemployed and lured by the promise of better pay, took a job at CashBox’s call center. She soon realized her role was to intimidate and threaten clients who didn’t pay up in time.

During her five-day stint, she was told to harass clients the moment they missed a repayment by digging into their contact lists, messaging histories, and images, which the app had unauthorised access to. This contravenes Mexican privacy laws.

Karen, not her real name as she fears reprisals, added that workers often faced bullying from supervisors, were forced to work overtime without pay, and were not provided with formal job contracts.

App Misuse Rampant

Last August, a report from the Thomson Reuters Foundation highlighted 29 apps, with CashBox among them, which were drawing scrutiny over questionable lending practices. Tactics ranged from the charging of exorbitant interests rates to extortion.

Recently, Mexico City police cracked down on seven call centers linked to over 90 loan apps, making multiple arrests and confiscating a range of devices used in customer extortion.

Young Workers Exploited

Unfortunately, many of those coerced into these harsh practices are young people with limited job prospects. A disturbing number of young Mexicans are unemployed, leading to them taking whatever work they can find.

After losing her construction job, Karen found herself working for CashBox through a friend’s recommendation. Disturbingly, she was never provided with a formal contract and noted immediate red flags based on the lack of professional onboarding processes.

Once she started, she was asked to observe her colleagues’ behavior during WhatsApp calls with clients, noticing a pattern of verbal abuse and intimidation.

Recruiting High-School Dropouts

Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members are being used to recruit high-school dropouts or individuals with only a middle-school education for these dubious loan apps under investigation. These jobs don’t offer formal benefits like social security, are often paid in cash, and come with harsh working conditions, according to former agents.

Both Karen and another former employee, Enrique Hernández, left their jobs due to the questionable legality of their roles. They are currently employed in formal call centers serving banks and urge others to avoid the predatory loan app call center industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CashBox?

CashBox is a loan app that has been reported for unfair lending practices and violation of privacy laws. It has been alleged to use call centers where staff are made to harass and intimidate clients who fail to repay loans on time.

What action has been taken against such loan apps?

Multiple actions have been taken against these loan apps. Notably, in Mexico City, police raided seven call centers linked to over 90 loan apps and made numerous arrests. Despite this, it remains a complex issue that requires more robust intervention from regulatory bodies.

Why are young workers targeted?

Young workers, particularly those with little education or few job prospects, are being targeted because they are usually more desperate for work and therefore more likely to take whatever job they can find even if it involves unscrupulous practices.