Over the weekend, my husband decided to try selling his Mac mini and Huawei monitor on Facebook. He’s seen relatives, friends and acquaintances sell personal items on the same platform many times in the past, and they’ve tried to sell almost anything from BMW cars to shoe cabinets.
He got a message hours later from a fresh graduate who knew the right questions to ask. To verify the items, he even requested that we make a video of turning the items on and off, and show a time stamp, to make sure all are in working condition and that they are really on hand.
Then he began to weave a story that became more and more complicated. He said his mother will be the one to pay, and she is working in Ontario, Canada so the transaction will be made with a foreign currency then converted to Philippine pesos by whichever payment platform we choose.
We should get paid, not make a payment
It being a weekend, my husband said best to use GCash so we can see real-time transfer. But instead of asking for our details, he provided a long email tutorial where we will need to scan the code to initiate the “payment”. To be honest, we’ve never received a remittance or any payment out of Canada so we did not immediately dismiss this. But the more we read the email, the more we felt uncomfortable.
So we turned to Google for online wisdom and realized we were dealing with a scammer! My husband, not known for his patience, immediately messaged the guy saying “Scammer ka! (you’re a scammer)”. And in just seconds, the guy’s Facebook profile disappeared.
The scary thing is we were also almost scammed just a week ago.
We were also on Facebook chatting with someone we thought was a real estate agent to rent an apartment near our daughter’s school. The unit looked great in photos, and they even sent a video. The price was also within our budget, but we couldn’t view the unit yet because the landlord is abroad.
If it’s too good to be true, then it’s fraud
Because of the strong demand for the unit, the agent advised us to sign the rental contract and make a downpayment to secure it. When the landlord arrives, we’ll get the chance to view the unit, and if it does not meet our requirements or the contract stipulations, we’ll get a full refund.
We did all the checks we could: verified the identity of the agent online, checked his real estate license, visited the condo and the unit to check if it does exist (although we could not go in) and asked for the identity card of the landlord.
So we got the funds ready for transfer, and we were about to sign the contract. But then the agent kept pressuring us to sign on the same day and within the next couple of hours. That’s when I started to get suspicious and decided to do more online digging. My daughter found an older post in Facebook for the same apartment tagged as a scam! We forwarded the link to the agent and he immediately blocked us.
Don’t be the next victim
Fraudsters are becoming increasingly aggressive and commonplace. In the past, they used the threat of life or stories of imminent danger to cause people to part with their hard-earned money. But now they are also trying to scam people who are just doing everyday or routine transactions.
How to spot online fraud? There are many ways but these five can give you a good start.
#1 Do not scan QR codes with your payment information
This is really simple – you scan a QR code with your payment app because you are making a payment. So if someone is supposed to pay you, they should ask for your QR code, right? Note that once you scan someone’s QR code and the payment goes through, the chances of getting your money back are almost zero.
The same advice goes for your credit card and debit card. Never share your account details with anyone, and that includes your card number, the security digits at the back of your card, your card expiry and One Time PINs that are sent to you via SMS. Giving them this information is like opening the door to your money vault and letting them rob you blind.
#2 Never completely trust someone you only met online
The real estate agent’s identity was verified many times but turns out the fraudster stole it from another person! When we reported the fraudster to the real estate agency that he represented, we were informed that the “real” one has a different phone number and has reported the identity theft many times. Sadly, he is still getting impersonated.
#3 Make online checks, again and again
One good thing with today’s social media access is that these fraudsters also leave a trail. In the case of the apartment, someone actually left a comment on his previous post exposing his scam. Once we clued in, it was easy to find related posts and more comments on his modus operandi.
#4 No great deals go unpunished
If it’s really a bargain, consider why no one else has taken it? In our case, we don’t know the agent, and he has no reason to favor us over others. So the more he tried hard to market it like we were getting a special treatment, the more alarm bells were ringing in our heads.
#5 Patience will reward and protect you
One common thing with fraudsters is the “rush” – they will try to force you into doing something right now. That’s probably because they don’t want you to have time to check with someone, or have second thoughts, or back out. They’ll always push you to make a decision quickly, and impose a tight deadline. Don’t let yourself be backed into a tight corner that you have no way to escape.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.