Warning issued vs chat rooms, online dating

By Zinnia Dela Peña, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 15 2014 09:40 AM | Updated as of Feb 16 2014 07:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos using chat rooms and online dating sites to find love or meet people, be warned.

The Bureau of Customs is urging the public to be on guard against individuals who prey on single men and women who use dating service websites, chat rooms and social media sites.

The perpetrators, who claim to come from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, promise potential victims packages containing luxury bags, jewelry, electronic gadgets and even money that would be sent to them once they pay purported customs duties and taxes.

“Prior to making any payment, we advise recipients of emails purportedly sent by the Bureau of Customs to inquire first through our public assistance contact channels,” the BOC said.

The BOC may be reached at telephone 917-3201 or at [email protected] through email.

The scam starts with a suspect befriending a victim online, spending weeks or even months building up a romantic relationship with the lonely and vulnerable victim through email.

The suspect would later send an email to their intended victim purportedly coming from the BOC informing the victim that the packages would be sent to him or her after the payment of duties and taxes to be deposited in a designated bank account or money transfer service.

The email even details the breakdown of customs duties and taxes, the customs bureau said.

The victims would receive a tracking number and invoice for the purported shipment. But after remitting or depositing the money, the victim never gets the package.

According to the BOC, at least 12 persons, mostly women, have already filed complaints with the bureau.

This figure does not include victims who did not personally report to authorities, those residing in the provinces and those who may be too embarrassed to file a report.

The BOC urged the public to immediately report any email message purportedly promising them packages after payment of duties and taxes.

Duties and taxes due the customs bureau are payable only to the BOC and not through any bank, the government’s second major revenue collection agency said.

The customs bureau likewise pointed out that it does not give assessments and computations of duties and taxes by email and these are computed and written on official BOC documents.