Call center agent arrested for Facebook 'identity theft'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 20 2012 06:23 PM | Updated as of Apr 21 2012 06:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines – A call center agent is facing multiple charges after she was caught receiving money from an Australian man whom she tricked through social networking site Facebook.

The suspect, identified as Louella Tan, allegedly created a fake Facebook account using photographs of Fil-Norwegian commercial model Janka Cederstam.

Tan used the alias “Jen Matheson” on the site.

Cederstam said she received a call from an Australian who claimed that he met “Matheson” through Facebook.

The Australian, whose identity was not revealed, said he often chatted online with “Matheson” until she became his girlfriend.

He said the suspect had convinced him to send money to the Philippines because the suspect claimed there is no one to support her financially as both her parents are dead.

Identity theft

Cederstam immediately filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the identity thief and a sting operation was set up.

Tan was arrested by the NBI Technical Investigation Division while she was collecting the money sent by the Australian.

“Nag-create siya ng new account, binago ang name pero pinalitaw na same person. Dahil maganda ang nasa picture, maraming nag-add as friends. Eventually had a relationship with this Australian national. ‘Yung Australian national naman, believing na may online relationship sila, was enticed to send money via Western Union dito sa Pilipinas,” said Palmer Mallari, chief of the NIB’s Technical Investigation Division.

Tan said she was able to trace Cederstam’s personal background through Facebook.

"Itong anak ko inaalagaan ko ang reputasyon, pinaaral para magkaroon ng magandang reputasyon, sa'yo lang masira?" Cederstam's mother told Tan following her arrest.

NBI warned the public against identity theft common on social networking sites.

“It is the act of stealing one's identity name, pictures, personal circumstances. Tapos ‘yung identity na ito gagamitin to commit crimes such as estafa, extortion, libel, etcetera. Pero ang term na identity theft mismo ‘di pa na naka-define sa laws, hindi pa specifically krimen sa Pilipinas,” said Mallari.

Privacy settings

Mallari advised Facebook users to utilize the site’s privacy settings to prevent cases of identity theft.

“Kung pupuwede huwag ilagay ang totoong pictures, birthday mo, kung saan ka nakatira, huwag mo rin ilagay ang mga activities mo doon because by doing this lalo ka lang mago-open sa mga tao na may intensiyong lokohin ka,” he said.

The site has customized privacy settings to allow users to hide vital information from strangers.

On her Facebook page, Cederstam posted:

"It puts mine and my family's reputation at stake! I'll start deleting 'friends' on FB, will just keep those I'm actually close to as I see my photos on different websites even though it is set on private. To all the posers out there, stop doing what you're doing because you will get caught and brought to JAIL, just like this chick who we tracked for 3 and a half weeks now."

Tan will face charges of estafa, violation of the E-Commerce Law and illegal use of alias. -- Report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News