Finding love as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) is hard. Finding out that your online girlfriend is actually seven people who have scammed you out of a huge amount of money must be even harder.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced yesterday that they had arrested members of a syndicate who operated an online dating scam. The seven alleged scammers preyed upon one OFW who ended up giving them a total of PHP600,000 (more than US$11,055) over two years.
The Philippine Star identified the suspects as Maria Angelica Miguel, 21; Richelle Casilla, 32; Jeanly Shane Boyore, 18; Juvy Ann Capino, 19; Arjay Balansayo, 27; John Luis Patrick Acol, 19; and Jim Anthony Besonia, 18.
Their victim, seaman Frederick Egea, discovered that he had been scammed when he tried to meet up with his online girlfriend in real life.
Members of the PNP’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) and the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) arrested the suspects in Quezon City, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
According to Chief Superintendent Marni Marcos, the ACG’s division chief, the syndicate created a fake Facebook account using the name “Angelica Palanog.” The account was used by the suspects to ask Egea for cash. Egea was told that the money was going to be used for school fees and other expenses, Philstar reported.
Marcos said that victims of romance scams have increased recently. CNN Philippines quoted him saying in a mix of Filipino and English: “The reports that we have been receiving about online scams are increasing. There has been a lot [of people] who have been victimized. Some people [even] believe that they are having a relationship with a foreigner.”
Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde asked the public to be cautious when engaging with people they meet online.
He said: “We do not engage with somebody whom we don’t know. That is one thing. And let’s not befriend strangers on social media.”