Corruption online: Customs ‘scammers’ prey on ‘lovesick’ men, women to extort money

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CORRUPTION at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) knows no borders as this time scammers in the agency prey on “lovesick” Filipino men and women searching for foreign partners on the internet to extort money, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena warned.

Lapena issued the warning after receiving a complaint from a victim whose supposed “online sweetheart” sent her a package containing signature bags and gadgets but was asked to pay more than P100,000 by Customs before these could be released.

“If things are too good to be true, get out, that’s a trap,” said Lapena.

The unidentified victim was first asked to pay P30,000 to a certain Jenalyn Miranda for the release of the package. However, after paying Miranda via money transfer, the victim was again asked to pay an additional P80,000.

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Lapena did not say whether the victim got her package but as far as the BOC helpdesk was concerned, the incident was one 1,263 reports of the scam from January to September 2017.

Of the total, 412 complaints were made via phone calls; 159 via emails; and 692 through social media.

The numbers, however, reflected both verified incidents and those that were merely reported but remained unverified because the caller or the email sender did not provide further details.

The scam begins with the ‘love scammer’ introducing himself as a foreigner from either Australia, United Kingdom or the United States, getting in touch with prospective victims online using social networking sites like Facebook, internet chat rooms or other dating sites.

After befriending the victims online for several weeks or months, these scammers would send a message that they have sent a box containing expensive gifts like designer bags, jewelry, gadgets like laptops and smartphones via international door-to-door parcel complete with tracking number and invoice of the supposed shipment.

After several days, the victims will then receive an email, a phone call, or text allegedly from an officer or employee of the BOC informing them that the package was being held in Customs and that it would be sent only after they pay duties and taxes to be deposited at a designated bank account or money transfer service.

Lapena did not say whether any of these scammers have been arrested. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

 

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