Pandemic lets loose scammers in recession-hit Philippines

Online selling scams, phishing, and pyramid scams have proliferated, as unemployment soared amid the coronavirus crisis and recession.

Since April, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ordered several organizations to stop operations for various reasons, including lack of proper documents, as well as promising ridiculously high returns for small amounts. Here are some of them and their schemes:

BOSS Network - Solicits investments from the public in the guise of operating multilevel marketing. The scheme constitutes the sale and/or offer of securities, where a person invests money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits primarily from the efforts of others, according to the SEC.

CROWD1 - Solicits investments from the public by offering "educational packages" for a minimum of P6,000 and as much as P240,000, and promises bonuses. It claims that it generates income from online games. A person earns through referrals.

Forsage - Touts a platform based on Ethereum (ETH) blockchain technology, which supposedly provides long-term active and passive income to investors through a crowdfunding referral system.

RCashOnline - Offers business packages, including Royale products for resale, starting at P18,660 for one account and going as high as P130,620 for 7 accounts with insurance worth P1 million. The scheme relies heavily on recruiting members in exchange for high monetary rewards rather than on selling products.

The Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta Foundation - Promises members P5,000 worth of grocery items every month and offers 21-year-old male agriculture students and graduates all-expenses-paid training with $1,000 allowance in Israel for 6 months, in exchange for personal information. Its registration was revoked as early as February 3, 2003, for noncompliance with reportorial requirements.

Bitcoin Revolution - Investors can supposedly earn as much as $1,000 from a minimum investment of $250 within a day, a 300% return on investment per day or a total of 9,000% per month. The SEC said the company does not have a license, and flagged its ridiculous rates of return.

The SEC also identified the following groups engaged in investment-solicitation activities without the necessary licenses: 

  • CryptoInvestWith.Us
  • Fast Track
  • JOCALS688
  • Won Project/Won Network/Won Foundation
  • Captcha Philippines, Incorporated
  • Fil-Invest
  • Xtreme House of Beauty Trading Corporation
  • Bayanihan Program of Billy Ford Andrada
  • My Gold Rev/My Gold Rev Philippines
  • Friend$hip/Friend$hip Philippines and World of Captcha
  • CashAB
  • CashOcean
  • KwikPeso
  • Little Cash
  • CashAB Lending Company
  • Mimosa Credit Ltd
  • Zamoya Credit Ltd
  • Cryptec
  • CryptoPeso
  • V2R Trades
  • Lao Razon Trading and/or Lao Razon Marketing
  • Sakto Online Advertising
  • MAGINVESTKA.ONLINE (MIK.O)
  • Azenzo-Online

Last July 21, Kapa Community Ministry International founder Joel Apolinario was arrested in Lingig, Surigao del Sur, after a year of evading arrest for large-scale estafa. (READ: EXPLAINER: How Kapa Ministry took advantage of investors)

Phishing

Phishing scams have also continued to proliferate amid the pandemic, with the National Bureau of Investigation's Cybercrime Division noting a 200% increase since the lockdowns started in March.

NBI senior agent Francis Señora said there were only around 30 phishing cases before the COVID-19 outbreak. But 3 weeks into the pandemic, they had an additional 70 cases.

He explained that people always being online during the quarantine period has become an "opportunity for attack." (READ: Phishing is top PH cybercrime during pandemic – authorities)

Phishing targets are reached via email, telephone, or text message by entities posing as legitimate institutions.

Face shield scams

Even bulk buyers of face shields have become the latest victims of an old modus operandi.

GMA News reported a scheme where a scammer will pose as a buyer of millions of pesos' worth of face shields. This scammer would work with a fake supplier.

The victim will then be made to believe that he or she would act as middleman.

At the last minute, the victim would be asked by the buyer to cover expenses. But on the day of the delivery, the supplier would not show up.

Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo urged the public to check if businesses are duly registered with the SEC before entering into transactions. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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