Tibaldo: Of scheming spams and pyramid scams

IN A WORLD populated by a wide mix of peoples from secluded groups and simple living individuals to a sea of city dwellers who are coping up with the demands of day-to-day modern living, there are also those who manages to survive at the expense of others. In the midst of the so-called global financial crisis, there are unscrupulous individual who resort to scamming, swindling, cheating and take advantage of other people’s generosity in order to keep up with their daily needs or simply to maintain life’s luxury or vices.

Because of this, they plot dirty tactics to lure their prey—the consumers. According to a resource material from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Consumer Tips section, one of these so-called scams is phishing. It is an identity theft scam that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States. Phishing scam e-mails are urgent electronic mail requests for personal information that appear to come from a legitimate institution or company.

The e-mail links to an authentic-looking web page that is used to trick recipients into disclosing personal information such as credit card numbers, home addresses, and other sensitive financial information. One phishing e-mail scam reportedly lures recipients into making donations to a fake website. Do not just give your full trust and confidence to appeals and friendly messages without verifying the integrity of the messenger and understanding the nature of such donation, contribution or petition.

To avoid falling prey to phishing and online scams, the DTI reminds consumers not to directly respond to an e-mail that asks for personal information. If in doubt about the message’s authenticity, you have to verify it by contacting the institution yourself. Make sure that the web page asking for your credit card information is secure and look for “https” at the beginning of the URL on that page, which indicates it is encrypted for security. Protect your credit card from theft or loss and call the bank immediately to block access to your account if your card is either lost or stolen. If you think you have received a fraudulent spam email, forward it to the National Telecommunications Commission atospac@ntc.gov.ph with your contact details so that NTC can get back to you.

Another form of scam is through sales promotion. This happens, most of the time, inside the shopping malls where agents offer freebies such as movie tickets, rice cooker, etc. in exchange of buying something to get the said giveaways. If the consumer easily falls to their traps, it is usually too late before they notice that the price of the items they bought from the assumed sales promotion is three times higher as compared to their price levels in other stores.

In Baguio, the perpetrators of such scams were brought to the attention of DTI-CAR and was ordered to cease and desist their sales acts but it looks like other groups or the same people are using another name but employing the same scam. For this, the public especially the duped consumers are enticed to report their cases to DTI.

The DTI’s Consumers Protection and Advocacy Bureau (CPAB) warns the public it is not a giveaway if you are required to buy something in return. It is also wise to compare the price of similar items, not be swayed by sweet talking sales representatives and gullible enough to sign contracts. One must understand well the terms of the contract. The DTI has noted cases of money transfer service schemes that has become a headache to many consumers.

Money transfer services appear in various sales transactions including buying products through the Internet, paying fees or charges to redeem prizes in a sales promo, once-in-a-lifetime investment, fees for abroad or for recruitment agency representatives, donation for a foundation, or paying fees or charges to get your share from the prizes won by another person among others.

Secure your money. Be sure that the person to receive the money through a money transfer scheme is the one you are very much familiar with. You have to know the validated complete name, address, or immediate family of the recipient of your payment. If the offer is too good to be true, then it may not be something to believe in.

According to the CPAB, some money transfer service firms do not guaranty the quality and security of their products. In buying products or seeking services via the Internet, the true and complete name of the recipient should be written well and do not use alias or pseudonyms in any transaction. Further, buying from unknown person would not guaranty security on products or services being offered. The CPAB further urges that in case one suspects that the transaction is a scam, call the money transfer firm immediately.

With the many reported fraudulent cases purported through short messaging service (SMS) or text messages saying that you have won millions of cash prizes or a brand new car from which you have not joined on such raffle draws or contests, do not believe if it comes from a mobile phone with an 11 digit user’s number because legitimate promotions uses only three or four digits. For more information, call NTC at 926.7722. We must be vigilant as a consumer because an empowered citizen knows how to protect himself or herself from the fangs of preying scammers and spammers.

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