MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) repeated its warning against online romance scams as a syndicate targeting Filipino women again became active.
According to BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval, the said syndicate involves foreign nationals befriending and would often court Filipino women they meet online.
Sandoval added that to earn the trust of their victims, the foreign nationals would even send small gifts to the Filipino women they would meet and their families.
“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,” Sandoval explained.
“After sending the amount, the victim loses contact with said foreigner,” she added.
Sandoval said the syndicate, who initially targeted victims in Cebu and later in Manila, stopped their activities when their scheme was exposed by media in 2015.
Recently, Sandoval said a victim from Cebu reportedly paid the scammer P40,000.
“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,” she said.
“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 added.
Sandoval then clarified that 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,” she added.
She noted that the BI only takes custody of foreign nationals who are denied entry at the airport.
“If excluded, a foreigner is sent back to his port of origin on the next available outbound flight,” Sandoval said.
Meanwhile, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente advised the public to “exercise vigilance to avoid being victimized” by online syndicates.
“As these fraudulent activities are becoming noticeably numerous, the BI strongly warns the public of such motives, especially from internet acquaintances,” Morente said.
The BI further reminded Filipinos to know the exact airport location and flight number of their expected foreign guest for verification, should they find themselves in the same situation.
The agency also advised the public to call its hotline at (02) 465-2400, or contact the immigration office of the airport involved. The contact details is available on BI’s website at www.immigration.gov.ph. /muf
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