The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday warned the public against rampant cases of online love scams.
According to BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval a warning has been reissued in the midst of reports that a syndicate that targets Filipinas is once again active.
Sandoval said that the usual scheme would involve foreign nationals befriending and 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 part 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,” said Sandoval. “After sending the amount, the victim loses contact with said foreigner,” she added.
“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 added.
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.
Sandoval recounted that this syndicate 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 came 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,” said Sandoval. “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,” she shared.
BI Commissioner Jaime H. Morente expressed his dismay towards the ongoing scam. “As these fraudulent activities are becoming noticeably numerous, the BI strongly warns the public of such motives, especially from Internet acquaintances,” he said. “Exercise vigilance to avoid being victimized,” he added.
Filipinos with expected guests from another country who get in the same situation are advised to know the exact airport location and the flight number of the passenger in order to verify the truthfulness of the claim.
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 their website www.immigration.gov.ph.(Source: PCO Ernest Cayanan)
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