The search for true love in the time of social media has cost an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) P600,000 after he fell prey to an online dating scam.
The 23-year-old seaman who is a resident of Sta. Cruz, Manila, according to Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) Director Marni Marcos, was lured into a trap through the pictures and Facebook Live video of a pretty 20-year-old girl under the account name Joana Mae Cruz.
“The victim was working abroad, he was befriended on Facebook and then they had a relationship online” said Chief Superintendent Marcos.
Marcos said the seaman appeared to have fallen in-love with the girl, because since they became Facebook friends in June, 2017, he has already coughed up some P600,000 worth of chocolates, flowers, and cash.
The victim was so in-love that he even pushed for his vacation last month in order to finally meet the girl and date her for real, according to Marcos.
But Marcos said that the victim sensed that there was something wrong when the girl would not show up in their scheduled meeting for various excuses.
Unknown to the victim, his supposed online girlfriend has nothing to do with all the cash demands that include alleged payment for tuition and other expenses for her modeling activities.
“It turned out that there was this group which has been using a dummy account on Facebook in order to extort money from the seaman-victim,” said Marcos.
Marcos explained that the Facebook account “Joana Mae Cruz” has been using the photos and live activities of another person – an aspiring model.
It turned out that what the aspiring model knew all along was that there was a seaman who had a huge crush on her and some of the suspects manipulating the fake Facebook account told her that the seaman is their relative, said Marcos.
It was also the suspects who would send the flowers and chocolates to the model’s house.
After failing to meet Joana Mae Cruz whom he thought was his girlfriend when he arrived home on September 5, the operator of the fake Facebook account finally revealed to the seaman that he was communicating with a fake account.
But the extortion did not end there as the suspects still demanded money from him. This prompted the young seaman to seek police assistance.
Around 10 a.m. on September 11, the seaman met with the suspects under the guise that he would give in to their demand. It was then that the arrest was made.
Nabbed were Ma. Angelica Miguel, the person who allegedly used the account Joana Mae Cruz; Richelle Casilla, 32; Jeanly Boyore, 18; Juvy Ann Capino, 19; Arjay Balansayo, 27; John Luis Patrick Acol, 19; and, Jim Anthony Besonia, 18.
The suspects are now facing a case of extortion, swindling and identity theft.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), advised netizens to be careful and be aware of security of their social media accounts.
“Facebook users and subscribers in the Philippines should reinforce their vulnerabilities against possible cyber attacks by observing the following basic cybercrime prevention tips,” said Albayalde.
Here are the tips from the PNP-ACG:
1. Always keep your Social Media Accounts private;
2. Use a unique PASSWORD in every online account;
3. Initiate a background investigation of a person social media account who is not known to you personally before befriending or accepting a friend request. This can be done by knowing how long the account existed, how many friends it has and does it have regular online activities;
4. Protect your computer system against intruders, by installing Anti-Virus and by activating your firewall;
5. Remember the phrase, “TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.”