THE continued threat of Covid-19 and the strict health protocols and social distancing measures to curb the pandemic have forced most of us to stay home. Thus, instead of visiting a physical store, a lot of consumers choose to shop with online retailers or technically through electronic commerce, or e-commerce, platforms.
The e-commerce industry, particularly online shopping, is on the rise, especially during this time of the pandemic. It was estimated five years ago that “in 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online, up from 1.66 global digital buyers” (statista.com). Latest published statistics shows that Filipinos spend an average of 10 hours a day online, with online shopping as “one of the most popular online activities that Filipinos do next to video playing.”
However, as with any growth in any industry, comes the dark side of it — the proliferation of online scammers.
The anticybercrime group of the Philippine National Police (PNP ACG) listed down and detailed the most common types of internet fraud (https://acg.pnp.gov.ph/main/2-uncategorised/172-common-types-of-internet-fraud-scams). The list includes boiler room, romance, lottery, banking, online account and Nigerian scams. The published document is already old and obsolete, with references to materials dating from 2005 to 2010.
In an interview with a major broadcast network in October 2020, PNP ACG spokesman Maj. Joseph Villaran said, “Online shopping is the most common form of online scam [operations]. He said criminals pretend to be online sellers, but items fail to be delivered once money is transferred.”
Filipinos in the long run learned not to part with their monies until after getting hold of the product. Often, the mode of payment is cash-on-delivery, or COD. Payment is made directly to the courier, which is delivering the product ordered online. With this mode of payment, scammers are still pulling their tricks — with the help of the couriers.
Ninja Van collects for mysterious orders
“We take the hassle out of your parcel.” This is the slogan of Ninja Van Philippines. What is in your parcel? Nobody knows, and Ninja Van doesn’t want the receiver to know.
I got a text message from Ninja Van on Dec. 28, 2020. The message read: “A Ninja will deliver your parcel today. Please advise our rider if you’re available to receive your order today. A friendly reminder we do not allow customers to OPEN THE PARCEL for checking.
Once opened you are obliged to pay in full amount. Any concerns on your order you MUST CONTACT YOUR SELLER. Ninja Van is a partner courier, we do not get hold of your orders nor your sellers. Any other concerns, please feel free to contact our Customer Service Hotline (02) 827-115-01 to address your concern. Thanks for choosing us to deliver your parcel. We are glad to help you.”
I did not shop for anything online at that time and was not expecting any delivery. I usually do my online buying at a reputable and dependable shop like Lazada.
Anyway, a small package arrived in my office later that day. Surprisingly, it was addressed to one of my household members but bears my telephone number. Weird as it may seem, the label had no indication as to the contents of the package but showed only the amount to be paid “COD 1099.” After a little discussion with the delivery man as to the contents of the package, I paid him the amount of P1,099.
Subsequently, I opened the package and found in there a pair of cheap lady’s stockings, which might be worth at most P100. I asked the members of my household and found out that no one ordered that product. I called up Ninja Van’s customer service hotline on the same day informing them that neither I nor the addressee ordered the product that they had just delivered. Apparently, there are scammers among Ninja Van’s partners.
Imagine collecting P1,099 for a mere P99 product. Effectively, a thousand pesos is scammed from every unsuspecting customer. Why is this happening?
First, Ninja Van doesn’t allow customers to verify what is inside the package. They are complicit with what the scammers are doing. Second, Ninja Van allows the delivery of “unlabeled” packages. The package label should contain at least a description of the items for shipping. Ninja Van should not deliver packages without specific descriptions. Allowing this kind of delivery is aiding and abetting the perpetration of the scam. Scammers knew this and select Ninja Van as their collecting agents for their criminal activities. Finally, Ninja Van skirts their responsibility, though they are the ones collecting for the scammers.
I sent an email to Ninja Van that same day. For sure, they have not yet remitted the payment to their scammer-partner.
They replied in this manner, “Thank you for contacting the Ninja Van Customer Service Team. My name is Ninja Rech, and it’s my pleasure to assist you today! We are sorry to hear about this incident that the item you have received is not the same as the one you ordered. Words cannot express how we feel in line with the inconvenience it caused.”
It continued, “For us to resolve this issue, we need to work hand in hand. Kindly reach out to your seller. If in case, you are unable to reach the seller, kindly provide us a screenshot of your attempt to message the seller.”
What seller? We never ordered that, and we don’t know the seller. Ninja Van should have a record of their shippers.
On January 4, said Ninja Rech forwarded an email from one of their units stating: “This is Mark and it’s my pleasure to assist you today! We apologize if we were not able to get back to you as soon as possible. We would like to inform you that we already coordinate this for the relevant team for them to reach out to the seller.” Meanwhile, they were asking for bank details where to transfer the refund, if ever. This got me more suspicious since they said that my “concern is undergoing investigation and refund still not be guaranteed and for approval.”
“Give us 11 business days to get the necessary process we believe need to be approved and fully straightened out,” Ninja Van wrote.
I made a follow-up on January 19, 15 days after January 4. I got this reply: “My name is Ninja Jessalyn, and It’s my pleasure to assist you today! Thank you for taking the time to submit the necessary documents for your parcels. I will forward this to our assigned team for processing. Meanwhile, this may take 11 working days, before we can get in touch with you for feedback. You may just keep your lines open for further notification.” Another 11 days? When will these 11-day periods end?
So, the next time that Ninja Van delivers a parcel at your doorstep, be wary. Check the package carefully and open it before handing them your hard-earned cash.
Need for govt regulation
J&T Express Philippines is another e-commerce delivery company allegedly involved with online shopping scammers. I will reserve my discussion on this for a later time.
As it is, there is a need for immediate government regulation and effective complaint mechanisms against these delivery companies. Consumers are helpless in seeking redress by going directly and communicating with these couriers acting doubly as collecting agents. They will simply give the consumers the runaround — until the consumers give up in frustration.
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