The Philippine government has warned that sex-trafficking syndicates are using social media to entrap vulnerable women who are looking to find work placements in Malaysia, Singapore and other countries.

Twenty-seven women have been repatriated after they were rescued from a syndicate operating in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday. They were sent home through the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Philippine Ambassador Charles C Jose said Malaysian police had rescued the women last month after raiding an apartment in Johor Baru following reports that sex-traffickers were operating in the area. A Filipino caretaker was arrested, but later released.

Jose said the women had been recruited in the Philippines to work as “promodizers” selling liquor to customers in Singapore. However, they also had to provide sexual services in exchange for commissions.

“The women were mostly recruited through social media for work in Singapore, but were told that they will enter and exit the country from Malaysia but were there only on tourist visas,” Jose said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano urged Filipinos who wanted to apply for work overseas to check first with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Labor on job openings.

“There are numerous cases of Filipino jobseekers who apply for these online job offers but end up in virtual bondage in a number of countries abroad. We urge our countrymen to think twice before applying for the various job opportunities abroad that are being offered online,” Cayetano said.