PH warns vs Internet love scams

Posted at 07/24/14 7:54 PM

MANILA - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) warns the public against so-called love scams online.

According to the BOC, at least 44 people in Manila this year have reported that they fell for the scam, wherein they were befriended online by the suspects and then promised packages containing gifts and even cash.

These, in exchange for payment of supposedly Customs duties and taxes.

The BOC said most of the victims are women, and most of the email senders supposedly come from Australia, United Kingdom and United States.

"Perpetrators usually get in touch with prospective victims online via chat or dating websites. After constantly communicating online for several weeks or even months, the perpetrators would send a message to their victims through email, promising to send gifts ranging from luxury bags, jewelry, laptop computers and other electronic gadgets via international door-to-door parcel," it said.

The unsuspecting victims would then be given a tracking number and invoice for the supposed shipment.

A few days after, they would receive an email allegedly coming from the BOC, informing them that packages would be sent to them after they pay duties and taxes to be deposited in a designated bank account or money transfer service.

However, after depositing the money, the victims would never get their packages.

"Please be advised that the Bureau of Customs does not give assessments and computations of duties and taxes by email. These are computed and written on official BOC document. Customs duties and taxes due payable only to the Bureau of Customs and not through any bank," the BOC said.

The BOC advised the public to inquire first through their public assistance contact channels before depositing any money -- landline: +632 9173201, email: [email protected], and Twitter: @CustomsPH.

Internet scammer nabbed

Alleged Internet scammer Herminia Castillo. Photo courtesy of BOC

One woman believed to be involved in the scam was arrested in Mabalacat, Pampanga on Thursday morning, according to the BOC.

The suspect was identified as Herminia Castillo, 29.

Castillo was arrested after she claimed the money remitted by a scam victim, identified as Arneth Calma.

The entrapment operation was conducted in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Intelligence Service, AFP (ISAFP).

Calma, who has filed a complaint before the BOC's Intelligence Group, said she has been corresponding through email and chat with a supposed male foreigner who befriended her online for several months and promised to send her a gift package.

She said she then received an email purportedly from the BOC, informing her that her package was being held for non-payment of duties and taxes amounting to P35,000.

She was instructed to send payment to Castillo, who pretended to be a BOC employee, through money transfer.

After paying P35,000, however, Calma received a second email, claiming that she needed to pay an additional P20,000 because an examination revealed that high-value goods were concealed inside her package.

This, she said, already prompted her to seek assistance from the BOC.

Castillo is now facing swindling and estafa-related charges.

Follow-up operations are ongoing against other perpetrators of the Internet love scams.

"We are not certain as to how many people are involved in these internet scams but we will not let our guard down, especially as they are using the name of the Bureau," Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said.