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Smart warns public on text scam

MANILA, Philippines - With the Christmas season just around the corner and the inflow of remittances from abroad expected to spike, Smart Communications is reminding the public anew to remain vigilant against fraudulent texts or calls that ask for “emergency money.”

Scammers usually target families or relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), or those who receive regular remittances from abroad. Senders of hoax texts usually claim to be family members, relatives or friends of family members and relatives.

 “They would pretend to be a family member or a relative, and ask victims to deposit a certain amount of money to various bank or e-money accounts. The money is supposed to help them during an emergency situation, such as escaping from a cruel employer by buying a ticket to go home, or money for immediate medical attention, or treatment for an accident,” Smart public affairs group head Ramon Isberto said. 

He noted that since the initial reaction is almost always to help, fraud victims send money immediately, without confirming the facts with their family member or relative first. “When they realize they’ve been victimized by a scam, it’s too late,” he added.

To avoid falling victim to scammers and losing hard-earned money, text messages or calls from unknown cellphone numbers should be double-checked and confirmed, Isberto pointed out.

The public should also be wary of “friendly” inquiries by new acquaintances about family members, home situations, and details about an OFW relative or family member’s employment abroad, he added.

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“The first step for the gang is ‘getting to know you’. With the information they gather, they plot how to dupe victims. Then the syndicate calls or texts a family member and pretends to be any of the following – a manning agency (for seafarers), a Philippine consul or embassy staff, or a colleague of the OFW,” Isberto said.

Then the scammers will present various scenarios that supposedly happened to OFWs – conflict with bosses that led to physical injuries or being sent to jail; losing a cellphone or changing the mobile number and trying the prepaid load business for extra income, among others, he said.

 “Then they will ask for money to be deposited to bank or e-money or other remittance accounts. As we said in our previous advisories, we urge our subscribers to be wary text messages or calls from unknown cellphone numbers that ask for load or money, or even promise rewards. Always confirm first with those you personally know before sending money,” Isberto added.

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