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How To Avoid These Top 7 Scams In The Philippines?

Updated on Nov 22, 2021
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With advanced technological development, opportunities abroad have increased and multiplied in terms of the job market. As the demand for a hardworking and talented workforce increases, Filipinos are among the largest diasporas filling the gap across multiple industries, including healthcare and tourism.

There are over 2.2 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Many households depend on the remittance sent by the OFWs for sustenance and survival. OFWs are the backbone of the economy, contributing nearly 10 percent to the Philippines' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) overall. 

OFWs are also a hot target segment for scammers and fraudsters with all sorts of money scams. Scammers have also been adapting and advancing in their schemes of tricking, phishing, and scamming your hard-earned income right off of your hands. 

They create virtual, make-believe scenarios that are so realistic that you may not realize you have been scammed before it is too late.

They gain your trust first, have you hooked quickly, and ask you for money, then disappear after taking it. Sometimes the sum requested may seem small; it can also add up to millions of dollars. Most likely, a scammer is stealing your money right under your nose. 

The scenarios and methods to lure you are constantly changing. Often we receive email and text message updates of our money or bank transactions. In the era of digital payments, we also receive payment requests from vendors and likes; if you do not pay close attention, it is easy to get tricked into transacting your money into an unknown account. 

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Scammers have been reaching you out for over decades through telephone, snail mail, email, and most commonly now, the Internet. But you can protect yourself, your friends, and your family by learning and understanding the most common types of scams.

Here are some of the common scams in the Philippines:

Online Payment Or Money Transaction Scam

While making online transactions, you often share your personal and banking details to make payments and money transfers. If you are not careful, scammers can take your personal information and use it to transact the money into their account. 

Whenever you are asked to make an advanced payment for a job or shopping, or lottery, or some property you are purchasing online, ensure first to verify the credentials of the company and the money transfer service. 

Check their credibility, check reviews in case of online shopping sites and money transfer agencies. If it is an unknown service provider, check their status of registration on government sites. Transact with duly licensed, registered, or authorized companies and money transfer service providers.

Any business unit claiming to be United States-based, you can use U.S. securities and exchange commission to check the status using its legal name. For United Kingdom-based businesses, you can check their status on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 

For the Philippines, you can confirm if the money transfer company or the pawnshop is licensed and authorized by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Call the BSP Consumer Protection and Market Conduct Office, or chat with the BSP Online Buddy (BOB), if you are unsure. 

Remember that scammers play elaborate games; they may use authentic-looking company letterheads and redirect you to safe-looking websites. 

If you receive an overpayment check or message update, check with your bank if any actual transaction has been made. In the case of a check, you may not know after a couple of days that the check is fake and you have already paid the scammer. 

Try to avoid checks with excess payment and do not attempt to return excess pay unless your bank statement clarifies an excess payment was made. 

All the money transfer companies listed on CompareRemit are verified and compliant financial institutions under Federal Law. The verified online money transfer companies are the most secure and cheapest ways to sending money to the Philippines. 

Online Romance Scam

With the digital medium booming, there are several dating applications online budding romances between individuals across the globe.

Online scammers leave you broke and heartbroken. People who have experienced a life-changing event like grief over the loss of a spouse or divorce are the common targets of online romance scammers. 

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A Rappler report detailed the ordeal of one woman from Manila under the pseudonym Joanna, who met a guy on OKcupid who pretended to be an American businessman.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that financial losses due to romance scams exceeded $230 million - the highest of all internet-related crimes.

Scammers can steal not only your money but also your identity online. Be careful not only to avoid sharing your personal banking information online but also your images shared unless you've met them personally or know them well enough.

Often scammers will try to get your personal contact details off the dating app soon and very early be too close. Then fabricate an emergency or situation where they desperately need money. Once the transaction is made, they will disappear, so more than your emotions, trust your instinct. 

Here are a few tips to consider before you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online:

  • Research the person's photo and profile using online platforms. If YOU, the Netflix show, has taught us anything - it is that we can find a lot about anyone on the internet.
  • Take it slow and ask a lot of questions.
  • Do not send inappropriate photos or financial information that they can use to blackmail you later. 
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect. 
  • Quickly asks you to leave a dating app to go "offline."
  • Be suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why they can't.
  • Whatever the emergency, never send money to anyone you don't know personally.

Online Loan And Credit Lending Scams 

In such scams, scammers pretend to be private individual lenders or claim to operate on behalf of a legitimate financial institution. They offer unrealistic credit lines or loans online, either through a website or social media platforms. 

Fraudsters will put more focus on collecting upfront fees citing due diligence or legal requirements such as credit scoring or loan application, and gathering the victim's personal details for potential or abusive fraudulent financial transactions.

Before applying for any loan:

  1. Do your research.
  2. Do not let the emergency cloud your judgment.
  3. Check if the credit provider is registered.
  4. For online lenders selling through social media and different aggregator platforms, check their relationship caveat.

Most often, platforms may facilitate loans or run ads but are not the actual lender. 



Email Scam

Phishing emails and phony web pages are the most widespread Internet scam today. "Phishing" is both identity and password theft based on convincing phone calls, emails, and web pages. They pose as legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, eBay, or Paypal. 

They frighten or entice you into believing that your card is getting blocked or account frozen, making you visit a phony web page and enter or give away your ID and password. 

Commonly, they make the situation appear highly urgent to "confirm your identity." Even pretend hackers have attacked your account to lure you into giving your credentials.

Once they have your information, they will later access your account and withdraw large sums in a few transactions. Whenever in doubt, crosscheck with your banking operator and always avoid clicking on links shared in suspicious emails or messages.

Nigerian Scam 419

In the 90s and early 2000s, there were several letters, emails sent stating that a Nigerian prince or royal. 

The typical storyline was that the royalty was under some imminent danger, and they needed to be sneaked out of the country, and in doing so, the person will be rewarded. 

Similarly, a business offer is made asking for an upfront processing fee. These mails were rampant, and several traced back to Nigeria. These are ways of enticing victims, scamming individuals in exchange for a reward, and asking you to make payments.

Similar mail of fake lottery or prize win emails are sent asking for a certain processing fee or "advance fee." Making you believe in a million-dollar prize and luring you to pay money to scammers. Beware of such scam emails, especially when you have not entered any lottery or competition yourself. 

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Emergency Or Relief Scams

You may receive a phone call from some acquaintance of your loved one stating an emergency and how urgently monetary help is required. 

First, do not panic and think logically before you hastily make that transaction. Or there has been a natural disaster in your home country or locality, and someone has reached you through email or call for some aid or donation. 

Verify the help provided is to someone legit or someone scamming you in the name of an emergency. It is advisable to contact the recognized charitable organization directly by phone or their website.

Scammers can go to the extent of imitating legit organizations, creating identical websites, email addresses, and impersonating to be someone trusted. The World Health Organization issued a statement warning people about organizations pretending to be the WHO to scam people with promises of vaccines at the peak of the pandemic. 

The very people pretending to be a representative of an agency, organization, or bank employees helping you to transfer your hard-earned home may be the same scammers who are tricking you into stealing your money. 

IRS Tax Scam

IRS Tax Scams are very specific to the United States. You will receive a call or an email stating that the Internal Revenue Service will impound your property/belongings as there is a tax case opened against you for federal or state tax outstanding.

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The scammers generally will reach out over the phone and ask you to send money to them to settle the case, and they will not send the police to arrest you. The preferred mode for these scammers is usually Western Union or other such cash-based money transfers. 

First of all, the IRS never reaches out in such a manner, and secondly, the IRS will not ask you to send money to them through a money transfer service. Understand your tax implications of sending money to the Philippines. Do not act in fear. 

Here are a few tips to help spot a scam:

  • If something seems too good to be true, most likely it is not. A little investigation can save you an enormous amount of money.
  • Beware of unexpected strangers contacting you via email or social media.
  • Any company or person contacting you for a loan or advance payment with no legit identity
  • Any calls or emails asking for urgent or quick money transfer 
  • Asked for an unusual payment method, through vouchers or wire transfer
  • Calls or emails asking for personal information like passwords or PINs
  • Links shared in a text message to 'update' or 'verify' account details, no bank or any other reputable financial institutions will never ask for your PIN or online banking password.
  • Messages sharing OTPs or asking you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons

Can I Cancel An International Money Transfer Sent To A Scammer In The Philippines From The United States?

In the U.S., Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ensures that remitters or people sending the money have the right to cancel the transfer at no cost if it meets certain conditions:

  • You have made an international money transfer using a federal law-compliant remittance transfer provider.
  • The money you have sent has not been deposited to the recipient's account or picked up by the recipient.
  • You can cancel three business days in advance for scheduled transfers.
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What To Do If You Get Scammed In The Philippines? 

Money lost in scams cannot be recovered, and recourse is rare. You can still try and reach out to the official government bodies to seek help, depending on the nature of the scam.

Frauds, scams, and abuses relating to products and services of Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance, report to Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas. BSP has a dedicated online chatbot for instant communication called BOB (BSP online buddy). 

How To Report Scams To BSP? 

There are multiple ways to report scams to BSP.  You can either write to them directly consumeraffairs@bsp.gov.ph or call them on their direct line: (02) 5306-2584 | (02) 8708-7087 Trunkline: (02) 8708-7701 loc. 2584 

For fraud specific complaints, BSP has dedicated mediums and you can also use the following mediums depending on the type and your preference: 

Webchat 

  1. Go to https://www.bsp.gov.ph 
  2. Look for BOB's icon on the lower right portion of the page. 
  3. Click BOB's icon, and a chat box will appear.

 Facebook Messenger 

  1. Open the official BSP Facebook page 
  2. Click the Messenger icon
  3. Click "Get Started" 

SMS

  1. Open your messaging app. 
  2. Text "Complaint" to 21582277 (For Globe subscribers only. Regular rates may apply). 
  3. Wait for acknowledgement and feedback prompt.

For investment-related scams, cybercrime, and other criminal abuses, contact The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)

NBI Anti-Fraud and Action Division 

Email: afad@nbi.gov.ph Telephone: (02) 8523 8231 to 38 local 3529 or 3456 

NBI CyberCrime Division 

Email: ccd@nbi.gov.ph Telephone: (02) 8523 8231 to 38 local 3455; (02) 8252-6228 

NBI Complaint and Recording Division 

Telephone: (02) 8523-8231 to 38 local 3518

For fraud, scams, and abuses related to lending and investment with SEC-registered companies, report to The Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Corporate Governance and Finance Department (Reports related to Lending) 

Email: cgfd_md@sec.gov.ph 

SEC i-Messagemo: http://imessagemo.sec.gov.ph Telephone: (02) 8818 5476; (+63) 9260170248 

Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (Reports related to Investment Scams) 

Email: epd@sec.gov.ph Telephone: (02) 8818-6337; (+63) 961-519-7829; (+63) 961-684-4088

In conclusion, Filipinos are some of the kindest people in the world. Sending money to loved ones regularly and donating to charity is a typical affair for the Filipino diaspora. In fact, many households are dependent on the money sent by friends and families from abroad.

On the other hand, scammers are more sophisticated and are hunting the next victim to take advantage of the kindness. When you send money to the Philippines, our advice is always to do your due diligence and beware of scammers. Just a little vigilance will save you a lot of money and heartbreaks.

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