While news of cash cons and swindling frauds fill the daily headlines, it’s unfortunate that many Filipinos are still oblivious of these crooks’ modus operandi and fall prey to crime. Awareness is everyone’s best defense. It pays to be mindful of these criminals’ schemes otherwise you won’t know you’re being scammed even when it’s happening right under your nose. Outsmart crime and educate yourself with these common scams and modus operandi.
1. ATM (Automated Teller Machine) Scams
The scheme: After withdrawing money, an ATM scammer may come up to you and alert you that you left a 500-peso bill behind. He or she will advise you to check your ATM balance and will memorize your PIN as you log in. He or she will drop a 500-peso bill on the ground, which you would most likely pick up. The scammer will then swipe your card and replace it with a fake one.
Prevention: It is encouraged that you bring a trusted companion when making transactions at an ATM. Cover the keypad with your free hand when typing you PIN. Be watchful of dubious characters circulating the ATM prior to making a transaction. Move to another ATM upon spotting suspicious people around. Only use ATM machines in well-lit areas and check if there are devices installed that scammers use to steal your card information.
2. Internet Scams
The scheme: There are several online scams that regular internet users have perhaps encountered by now. These include Disaster Relief/Sick Baby scams that come up with some calamity/accident and ask money for disaster-stricken communities; Free Trial Offer scams that offer free promo and ask for credit card details only to steal your money later on; and the Mystery Shopper scam that nick money after you make an upfront payment.
Prevention: There are also several ways to thwart these online scammers’ success in stealing money. You can avoid this by not clicking on dubious links, marking unknown emails as spam, diligently changing your password every 30 days, securing your social media accounts by ignoring requests from unknown people, also by exiting the browser when a shady suspicious website asks for your personal information.
3. Office Intruders
The scheme: During office downtime when employees’ desks are unmanned, impostors sneakily work their way in the office to target gadgets and other valuables. They usually come in presentable clothes and pretend to be a friend or relative of an employee or sometimes a messenger from another company.
Prevention: Bring your gadgets and valuables whenever you leave your desk. Make sure that your desk or steel cabinets are locked prior to leaving your workspace. Report any suspicious-looking intruders who have entered the office at once to security.
4. Taxi Scams
The scheme: A taxi driver will pass through less known streets and alleyways instead of taking the common route and will stop on an isolated street where 2 or 3 of his accomplices await their victim. They will hop on the taxi and force the passenger to hand over his or her valuables.
Prevention: Make sure to lock the doors the moment you hop on the cab but make sure that the doors are not on child’s lock. Record the cab driver’s name and the vehicle’s plate and relay it over the phone or through text to a loved one. Prior to getting in the taxi, check if no one is hiding under the seats. Sometimes the accomplices are already inside the vehicle before the victim boards the taxi.
5. Salisi Gang
The scheme: The group executes their plan in shopping centers, bars, and even high-end restaurants. They are chameleons who are masters of blending with the crowd with every intention of distracting their victim and stealing the latter’s valuables. Just because they are presentably dressed in stylish clothes doesn’t mean they can be trusted. Any member of the salisi gang will wait until their preys are preoccupied until they start stealing clutches, gadgets, and valuables. Sometimes they themselves distract their victims.
Prevention: Be wary of where you leave your things. It’s best to keep your bags and valuables near you and to not leave them unattended.
6. Dugo-dugo Gang
The scheme: This group’s usual victims are helpers of affluent households. After familiarizing themselves with a household’s daily schedule/ routine, the crooks will wait for the most favorable time to execute their crime. When the help is alone in the household, a member of the gang will call the house and report that a family member of the household met an accident and needs money for a medical procedure. They will afterward pressure the household help into handing over cash and other valuables.
Prevention: Forewarn helpers and everyone in the house about this group’s M.O.
7. Budol-budol Gang
The scheme: The group was named such for their alleged powers of hypnotism. They can also beguile people with their “boodle” or counterfeit money that only happen to be sheets of paper. While their scheme might have evolved over the years, their basic tactic to lure or blackmail their victims into handing over their cash and valuables in exchange for a bag of fake bills or goods.
Prevention: Do not talk to or feel complacent in the presence of strangers. Refuse any items or cash that is suddenly offered to you by a stranger.
8. Airport Ambush
The scheme: Victims of these car thieves are usually passengers who happen to be at terminals at dawn. Once the passengers are on the road, the crooks deliberately bump the rear of the passengers’ vehicle, forcing them to stop over. If they fail, the carnappers speed up in front of the passengers’ vehicle to cut them off.
Prevention: It is highly encouraged that you book flights that don’t arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Also, avoid main avenues as C-5 and EDSA especially at odd hours. Remember to lock your doors and refrain from speeding up when another vehicle bumps your car.
9. Condo Criminals
The scheme: Thieves barge in unlocked units or simply break into units. Once inside, the crooks steal money, goods, and other valuables. Some even vandalize the homes they ransack.
Prevention: Always make sure to lock—even double lock—your unit prior to leaving. Prompt your landlord to tighten security in your condominium. Do a spot check on the security guards to make sure they aren’t sleeping on their jobs.
10. Backstage Burglars
The scheme: Burglars work their way in the backstage of shows and events to take advantage of the commotion. While everyone is preoccupied, these thieves steal cash and other valuables.
Prevention: Shows or events should have a designated group to watch over valuables and man the backstage and dressing rooms. Suspicious-looking characters should be reported at once to security.