Filipinos are no strangers to scams. It’s not unusual to hear stories in the news about authorities busting scam operations or infiltrating scam syndicates – and yet, people keep falling for the same modus operandi over and over again.
So why do people fall for scams, anyway? The answer lies in our psychology. Why is that? I personally believe that it’s because of a lack of understanding. People are generally trusting by nature, and it only takes a little nudge to get trusting people to buy into something.
But whereas ignorance is the problem, education is the solution. That’s why in this article, we’re going to talk about the most common financial scams in the Philippines and give you tips on how to stay safe.
1. Text Scams
The text scam is one of the oldest and most prevalent financial scams in the Philippines. As its name might suggest, text scams use text messages to spread fraud to many people.
Often, scammers are after your hard-earned money in the form of cellular load or bank transfers. However, as they become more advanced, they have also learned to gather your personal information or maybe even inject a virus into your phone.
There are many forms that this scam can take. Here are the multiple variations of this text scam.
The most common type of load scam, the roaming number scam, banks on the fact that most Filipinos probably have a relative or two who’s on OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Majority of us who owned a phone in the 2000s probably already received a text like this.
My grand-aunt almost fell victim to this particular scam.
One night when I was in high school, my grand-aunt suddenly came rushing to our house. This was in the rural countryside a decade or so ago. She was in her late-60s and, with her kids all grown up and living in Manila, she lived alone with her husband a few streets from our house.
In tears and out of breath from running, she struggled as she told us how her youngest daughter got into a vehicular accident in Manila and was admitted to a local hospital.
My grandma started panicking immediately and asked for all the details. Eventually, we found out that she had received a scam text pretending to be my aunt. The scammer wanted her to send 300 PHP (roughly 6 USD) to that number.
This type of load scam targets emotions, which is why it’s so successful. We’re less likely to think logically when we’re scared, shocked, or worried.
This scheme targets our natural tendency to correct a mistake. This scam happens when random numbers text you, claiming that they have mistakenly sent a load to your number, asking you if you can pay them back.
If you claimed that there was no load sent to you, they would also argue that the load must have been delayed, or it may have been sent sometime before.
This is typically a small-scale scam that targets individuals after a bit of load.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: For the roaming number and the naaksidente text scams, try contacting the original phone number of the supposed OFW or hospitalized family member.
For the wrong pasaload scam, check your balance first if a pasaload has really gone through. Remember that real pasaload messages are sent by a system, not a cellphone number.
Lastly, for the raffle winner scam, if you didn’t join a contest, it’s safe to say that you probably didn’t win anything.
2. Online Shopping Scams
Since the pandemic, online shopping has been on the rise when all of our outdoor activities (including shopping) have been heavily limited.
Online shopping scams prey on the fact that many of us are always on the lookout for great online shopping ‘steals’ and would be willing to overlook a few oddities in our transactions.
There are also multiple variations of this scam.
The most common (and arguably most hated) form is the Fake Item Scam. The idea is simple: the seller will advertise an item, have you buy it, and then give you the wrong — and cheaper — one.
They may also come in misleading advertisements, with descriptions that are “technically” accurate but far from honest.
One funny example I can think of is that circulating Facebook post about a person who bought a cheap table off of Shopee, thinking it was a steal for such a prize — only to realize that it was a miniature doll’s table when it arrived.
Adulting Pinoy Tip: Always — and I mean always — read the reviews of the things you buy online, especially if it’s something expensive.
If there’s something wrong with the item, it will be mentioned there, and fake item scammers will usually not thrive when they have an overwhelming amount of negative reviews.
On the other hand, if you decide to buy from a seller with no reviews, be prepared to undergo a long and hassling complaint with the platform or lose your money.
Outside Platform Deals
Online shopping platforms such as Shopee and Lazada have a full team of people whose sole purpose is to impose the shop’s policies. This means that it’s more difficult to cheat when you’re selling in them (although it’s not impossible) since customers can report them to the authorities.
Therefore, never ever communicate with a supposed “seller” outside the platform.
Some sellers may want to continue your negotiations outside Shopee or Lazada, promising things like discounts, etc. In which case, get out of there fast!
3. The Raffle Scam
We know you know what kind of scam this is.
It might come in the form of an email, text, or even calls, but there’s one thing in common: they tell you that you’ve won a raffle (that you never joined) and are set to claim the big prize.
The thing is, they need a little something from you first. They might ask for a “processing fee” for your information, or they might just want you to click on a URL that will turn out to be a virus or a phishing site.
Whatever it is, they need it immediately, over the phone, and they won’t give you time to think.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: Ignore it. If you didn’t join a contest, there’s no way you could’ve won one.
4. Phone Call Scams
True to its name, phone call scams are done in voice calls, which lends it a specific authority because it sounds more “official,” especially if the person in the other line is smooth and well-spoken.
There are many ways that a person over the call can scam you out of your hard-earned money or essential information. Here are a few.
Some scammers will call your phone to tell you about an “upgrade” to their services and will then ask you for your information to have your services upgraded as well.
With the information you give them over the phone, they will hack your account and use it to funnel money and get other valuable information.
In these schemes, scammers will tell you that something about their services has changed, so they need to verify their information again.
In the process, they will then ask you for sensitive personal information, which they will then use to hack your account and exploit.
This variation of the phone call scam started circulating during the pandemic.
Jay’s mother almost fell victim to this scam. She received a phone call saying she’s qualified to receive monetary help from the SAP. The person on the other end then asked for her birthdate and her bank account number (which they thankfully did not give).
However, when they asked for her online banking username, she immediately hung up the phone. Her family then contacted their local DSWD to ask about the call.
They said that 1) the SAP ended months ago and 2) their family isn’t even qualified for it.
Typical of phone scam calls, the caller was very insistent and aggressive and didn’t give you time to think about the call. She was very adamant that she be given the information right now, with an impatient tone that hurries people to speed up.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: Stay alert when answering phone calls from unsaved numbers, especially if they’re made from a cellphone.
I won’t recommend not answering unknown calls entirely since some legitimate phone calls from banks, ISPs, and other official entities, so you just need to be wary about what they tell you.
When callers don’t answer questions, are bullying or hurrying you, or ask for personal information over the phone, they are usually scammers.
If you feel uneasy but believe there is a chance that it might be real, tell them that you will reach out to them in a different manner, such as through their official email or by visiting their branch. Real personnel would usually be satisfied with this information, and if they insist that you transact over the phone, that is typically a scam.
5. The COD Scam
At best, this simply is a cruel prank played by someone who doesn’t have anything better to do. At worst, it’s a harassment ploy to bother your daily life and get you to spend money.
But what will you do if you already have a parcel delivery on your door? Don’t panic and explain the situation to the rider. If you refuse to pay for a COD item, the item will usually just be returned to the warehouse.
When dealing with COD attacks, one thing to remember is that the courier is not your enemy: they are just as ignorant about the matter as you are.
Instead, enlist their help in navigating the carrier’s policies. If it helps, show them proof by logging into your account and showing them that you made no such purchase.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: Be aware of what you put out on social media and various websites, and don’t just give out your home address and contact information to anyone.
6. The Romance Scam
This type of scam is one of the cruelest out there. While it might not be as common here in the Philippines as in the US, people who have been victims of these scams are often left disillusioned and sometimes traumatized.
Romance scams target lonely people or ones who are looking for love. There are many ways that they go about it, but in the end, their motives are the same: they all want the other person to have romantic feelings for them, which they will most likely exploit for monetary gain.
These scams usually happen online or in the text since it is more accessible for scammers to manage their ‘victims’ in these mediums.
This is a scam that’s easy to catch when it’s still early but hard to stop once you’re in. Why? Because in many cases, the victims actually fall in love with the scammer.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip to stay safe: This is not to say that you’re not going to find real love online – some people have, and some people continue to do so.
However, it’s much easier to scam people online. So if you’re ever looking for romantic relationships which are purely based on virtual interaction, you need to be very wary of people indeed. Be aware of, and never tolerate, toxic behaviors, and only trust them as much as they trust you.
7. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are easily one of the most common types of scams online. This scam uses multiple methods to gain access to any of your online accounts, whether your email, social media accounts, contact number, and more.
Once they have access to your account, scammers use these to dig for more valuable information, such as your bank accounts and e-wallets.
They can also use this in other types of scams, where they will scam other people using your account.
There are many ways that scammers try to get your information. Some might design pages that look exactly like your bank’s website, asking you to log in. Some might ask you for your data in a form that you have to fill in to get something.
Whatever the case, they have a common factor: they try to get information that you don’t normally give out, and they try to get it by pretending to be someone they are not.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: Be wary of people asking for your personal information. If they claim to be from banks or government agencies, they must already have your information on file, and they have no reason to ask for this information from you. If you feel suspicious, always call their official hotline.
8. Cryptocurrency Scams
Cryptocurrency is this exciting new financial trend making its way into the mainstream.
While cryptocurrency and blockchain are legitimate technologies, they are particularly suited for scammers because of their highly technical nature and trendy appearance.
Scammers prey on people entranced by the potential for cryptocurrency, which they have heard offers very high rewards. However, victims usually fall into two categories: those who believe they know everything about the crypto market and those who don’t want to learn about it.
Both kinds of people are easily swayed by the technical mumbo-jumbo that false crypto investors sprout and are closed to new information.
Thus, they choose to go the easy way and entrust their money to people who “guarantee” profits in the cryptocurrency market — only for the scammers to run away with their money.
Some individuals are susceptible to crypto “bubbles,” which are essentially over-hyped currencies. These are more subtle and difficult to distinguish, but the effects are the same.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip to stay safe: To avoid falling for cryptocurrency scams, educate yourself on this technology — especially if you plan to invest in it in any way. You can quickly begin this journey by reading our cryptocurrency guide article.
Cryptocurrencies have a sound technology that can make beneficial changes to society, but remember to treat it like any other financial/investment vehicle: learn, minimize risk, and invest wisely.
9. Investment Scams
Something closely related to the crypto scam is prevalent investment scams. These types of scams promise you significant returns for your capital and typically function like MLMs, with recruitment being a big part of its scheme.
Over the past few years, there have been many versions of this scam. Essentially, scammers prey on victims who want to “get rich quick” by promising them profits for next to nothing capital and effort.
Sometimes, the scammers will have a legitimate business font, and sometimes they will be very vague.
Occasionally, some victims might even get a taste of this promised wealth. However, they all end up running away with your money, with many other victims going bankrupt in the process.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip for staying safe: The old saying still holds: if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. If someone is offering you an investment opportunity, you should learn about it in-depth.
Ask for details about the investment; make sure you understand it and how it will make money, its finances, plans, etc.
This might seem like many questions, but a legitimate investment opportunity will be glad to provide you with these little details. If they can’t, or if they are offended by your doubt, you are most likely getting scammed.
10. The Government Relief Scam
This scam is a sophisticated integration of a little bit of everything.
It takes the form of a simple ‘ayuda’ scam, where the central concept is the government is giving away relief to people.
However, this scam is carried out by a hacked Facebook account; and will then proceed to try and hack you too by giving you a form or a website where you can provide your details to “sign up” for the government relief.
This type of scam is particularly insidious because it uses your Facebook friend’s account — someone that you might already trust — to deliver the news of this ayuda. Thus, you are more likely to give up your account and information.
Once they get that valuable info, they will then infiltrate your account and spread the scam to your friends while mining your budget for other, more profitable charges connected to it.
Adulting Pinoy’s tip to stay safe: In general, being vigilant about the links you click and the information you give away is an excellent tactic to prevent scammed like this — even if the scammer seems to be your Facebook friend.
The Worst Scams in the Philippines
Vigilance is a prerequisite when interacting with our overly-connected world, where hackers and scam artists can get ahold of our information with just one phone call.
However, the simplest way to avoid getting victimized by these merciless people is to learn about them.
The more you know about the worst scams in the country, the better equipped you will be. With this article, we hope we’ve helped you along the way to becoming a well-informed Adulting Pinoy.