Access to the Internet is a privilege, yet it’s also a responsibility as online scammers are elevating their tactics to lure unsuspecting netizens.
From phishing attempts on your emails to questionable financial offers, there is no shortage of security threats online — in fact, the Philippines has seen a significant rise in different online scams, with over 8,000 victims losing more than P155 million from January to August alone this year.
To help you stay informed, we’ve compiled the most common types of fraudulent acts so you can be extra vigilant against them and action points to protect yourself.
- Online selling scams
- Investment scams
- ATM fraud or phishing scams
- Call scams or vhishing
- Employment scams
- Package scams
- Loan scams
1. Online selling scams
According to the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG), scammers create fake websites or social media accounts to trick people into buying products that are either fake or non-existent. These scammers also use the latest technology to make these fake websites look like real online retail stores.
Scammers may use stolen logos, deceptive domain names, or counterfeit products to lure unsuspecting buyers.
When shopping online, avoid using your debit card linked to your emergency fund or life savings. If you like buying luxury items from live sellers on Facebook or Instagram, join Facebook groups and ask the community if a particular bag seller is legit or fake.
For example, a group of LV bag lovers and collectors have a public group where they can post screenshots of sellers they wish to transact with — they ask the community if the seller is legit.
2. Investment scams
Beware of enticing advertisements promising high returns with little risk. These scams often lead to financial loss, as the promised returns never materialize. Scammers rely on urgency and exclusivity to lure victims into their schemes.
According to ACG, scammers use “boiler rooms” as temporary offices, presenting an illusion of legitimacy. They may employ professionally-looking websites, toll-free numbers, and prestigious addresses to deceive individuals into believing they are a reliable investment firm.
To ensure you’re transacting with a legitimate investment brokerage company, verify their credentials with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). If it’s not on their list, then you better stay away from that so-called investment company.
3. ATM fraud or phishing scams
ATM fraud is a sneaky technique used by scammers to steal your personal and financial information. These criminals use skimming devices placed inside ATMs to gather data from the magnetic stripe on the back of your ATM card. Once they have access to this information, they can quickly loot your bank account.
Phishing is a cunning tactic employed by cybercriminals to manipulate unsuspecting victims. They send seemingly legitimate emails disguised as reputable sources like banks or financial institutions to deceive customers into revealing personal information.
These phishing emails often mimic tailored content that appears genuinely beneficial. However, clicking on any links or sharing sensitive information inadvertently grants scammers access to your computer and bank account.
If you receive a phishing email, delete it immediately. Don’t click any link that directs you to a website. Wrong grammar, incorrect spelling, inconsistent layout of texts, logos, and images are signs that it’s a fake email pretending to be sent from your bank.
4. Call scams or vhishing
Perpetrators use various tactics to trick people into revealing their personal information or making payments over the phone. They may pose as representatives of banks, financial institutions, or even government agencies to gain your trust.
One popular technique is called the “voice phishing” or “vhishing” approach, wherein the scammer impersonates a bank employee and asks for your personal information or bank account details. They may also threaten to close or freeze your account if you don’t provide the necessary information.
Another tactic that scammers use is to create a sense of urgency and panic to pressure you into making a payment over the phone. They may claim you have unpaid bills, owe taxes, or face legal consequences if you do not settle your debt immediately.
If you receive an SMS from an unknown sender, delete it immediately. As mentioned above, never click a link leading to another website. Unknown callers should be blocked, and always be vigilant to anyone who pretends to be a bank representative.
5. Employment scams
Job seekers have felt the struggle of job hunting at one point or another. And scammers know that. These employment scammers post fake job listings, usually for high-paying or work-from-home positions, and then trick job seekers into paying so-called ‘processing fees’ or ‘placement fees’ for non-existent job placements.
But now that the SIM Card Registration Act is enacted, scammers are taking things to the next level. They’re posing as HR managers, recruiters, or even company owners and using WhatsApp — sending unsolicited messages — to lure you into their trap. They’ll promise high-paying jobs or even pay per day in exchange for doing specific tasks. But don’t be fooled. These are all red flags for employment scams.
Stay one step ahead of scams while job hunting online. Always conduct thorough research on companies to ensure their job listings are legitimate. Remember, reputable companies never ask for processing or placement fees.
Suppose you received an email with a job offer unrelated to your expertise or skills, that’s probably a scam. Delete it immediately. Unsolicited WhatsApp calls and messages should be blocked, and if you’re in doubt, join Facebook groups where fellow freelancers and job seekers hang out. Asking the community will save you from stress and frustration.
6. Package scams
Scammers are taking advantage of the booming eCommerce industry in our country. Thus, package scams are also increasing this year — with 533 victims losing ₱20,902,535.
Beware of scammers pretending to be reputable delivery services such as USPS, FedEx, or UPS. They may send texts or emails with fake tracking numbers or notifications about delayed or undelivered packages. Remember, these messages are not genuine. They might even demand customs fees or taxes before delivering.
Other scammers also send unsolicited packages and demand payment upon delivery. This prevalent scam often targets shoppers who use popular online shopping platforms like Lazada and Shopee. If you didn’t order the item, don’t pay for it.
To track your packages, check the status of your order or item on Shopee and Lazada with the corresponding local courier. Each item is assigned to a specific rider that delivers within your vicinity.
Shopee and Lazada also show the name and mobile number of the delivery rider. If an unknown number is calling you that doesn’t match the rider’s information, don’t respond or simply ignore the calls.
7. Loan scams
Identity theft is a common technique employed by loan scammers. They obtain personal information from their victims and apply for loans in their name, leaving the victims unknowingly responsible for repayment while the scammers abscond with the funds.
Another prevalent loan scam is the loan shark scam, where scammers pose as legitimate lenders and prey on unsuspecting borrowers. They offer loans with exorbitant interest rates and unfair terms.
Other scammers employ advance fee tactics. They promise a low-cost loan but demand upfront fees. After receiving the fees, they vanish without providing any funds. Be wary of lenders requesting upfront fees.
So, how do you protect yourself from these loan predators? Only transact with legitimate lending or financial institutions like banks — generally, they offer personal loans without collateral and less to zero documentation. For a complete list of legitimate financing companies and providers, visit the SEC website.
What are the specific measures authorities are taking to combat online scams in the Philippines?
The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) takes active steps to combat cybercrime. They conduct large-scale operations to rescue victims of cybercrime syndicates, ensuring their safety and well-being.
Regular cyber security bulletins are issued to educate the public about online scams. If you fall victim to an online scam, gather evidence and report it to authorities like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP ACG. These reports play a crucial role in initiating investigations.
The authorities are also dedicated to raising public awareness about online scams. They provide essential guidelines for avoiding scams, such as updating online security and being cautious about sharing personal or financial information.
The risks posed by online scammers in the Philippines have grown considerably — this is not expected to lessen without strong measures taken by authorities.
As a consumer vulnerable to online scams, you better keep yourself informed of the potential risks ahead and ensure you recognize and prevent falling victim to their tactics.
Taking precautions such as using two-factor authentication or turning off auto-fill features on web browsers are important steps to protect your data proactively. In addition, it is wise to learn more about current scams, such as those outlined above, to gain awareness of emerging scams and how they could potentially affect you as an Internet user.
Have you been scammed before? What was your experience?
Let us know in the comments section below.