BEWARE of online love scams.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval warned that a syndicate which targets Filipinas is once again active.
She explained that the usual scheme involves foreign nationals befriending, often eventually courting, Filipinas they meet online. The foreign national would even send small gifts to the Filipina and her family to earn the victim’s trust. The supposed foreign national, in reality, is a member of a syndicate.
“These scammers pretending to be foreign nationals would usually arrange a meet-up and make it seem like they are flying in to the Philippines. Upon their supposed arrival, the victim will receive a call from someone pretending to be an immigration officer, explaining that the foreign national is in trouble and demanding that money be sent right away. After sending the amount, the victim loses contact with said foreigner,” Sandoval said.
“Immigration officers are not authorized to make the first contact to non-passengers during their tour of duty. It is even more illegal to demand money from anyone,” Sandoval stressed, adding that as a rule, the BI only holds custody of arriving foreign nationals in the airport when these foreign nationals are denied entry. If excluded, a foreigner is sent back to his port of origin on the next available outbound flight.
The online syndicate, she said, initially targeted victims from Cebu, then transferred their operations to Manila, but stopped when the scheme was broadcast in media in 2015. She mentioned that recent victims were again from Cebu.
“We heard of a victim paying as much as P40,000 to the scammer and she only started doubting the story when he asked for another P60,000. Just this Monday, we received information that another victim paid P18,000 to the syndicate for the release of a foreign national, who, upon verification, does not exist,” Sandoval said.
Filipinos with expected guests from another country who find themselves in the same situation are advised to get the exact airport location and the flight number of the passenger in order to verify the truthfulness of the claim, she added.
“For verification, the public is advised to call the BI’s hotline at (02) 465-2400, or contact the immigration office in the airport involved. The list may be seen on our website www.immigration.gov.ph.,” she said.