Sextortion victimizing widows

“Scammers look at your social media profile to know your music taste, your favorite food. They target your weaknesses. They are a syndicate,” he said. 

MANILA, Philippines — Love scammers are targeting the lonely and alone in life, including widows, as Valentine’s Day approaches, according to Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos.

“Scammers look at your social media profile to know your music taste, your favorite food. They target your weaknesses. They are a syndicate,” he said. 

Love scams and sextortion cases increased in 2023, according to the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG).

ACG data showed there were 168 love scam cases in 2023 compared to 94 in 2022, a 78.72 percent increase.

Last month, police documented two cases.

In love scams, fraudsters would use fictitious names, stalk lonely singles’ social media profiles and study their interests before interacting with them and requesting money or other assistance.

In sextortion, criminals would threaten to expose their victims’ nude photos and videos.

Police documented 121 cases of sextortion in 2023, which is 10 percent higher compared to 110 in 2022.

Last month, there were 19 cases.

Online scams remain the top cybercrime with 14,030 cases in 2023 compared to 7,208 in 2022, a 94.64 percent increase.

President Marcos earlier ordered the PNP to strengthen its cybersecurity system.

PNP public information officer Col. Jean Fajardo said they have set up cybersecurity desks in police stations nationwide. Each desk has two cybercrime investigators.

The PNP has so far trained 52 officers in cybercrime investigation in Calabarzon. Personnel in other regions are scheduled for training within the year.

“We receive cybercrime reports every day. It is alarming,” Fajardo said at a news briefing in Camp Crame.

OWWA data safe

Data on overseas Filipino workers remain intact amid the reported cyberattack attempt by China-based hackers, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

“I want to assure the public that no data was exfiltrated by the attackers,” OWWA administrator Arnel Ignacio said in a statement yesterday.

OWWA experienced a targeted cyberattack last month, he recalled.

The agency is closely working with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Cybersecurity Bureau’s national computer emergency response team, Ignacio noted.

“This collaboration ensures that we are leveraging the expertise of multiple entities to strengthen our overall cybersecurity posture and better protect our critical infrastructure,” he added.

The DICT revealed on Feb. 3 that China-based hackers committed cyberattacks targeting government websites and emails.

Based on the DICT investigation, the hackers were from China Unicom, a state-owned telecommunications firm.

However, the agency could not yet conclude if the Chinese government was involved in the cyberattack but “threat actors” were operating from within Chinese territory.


International and domestic air travelers should be wary of suspicious social media pages offering cheap fares bundled with hotel accommodation, tours and other activities, according to local air carriers.

Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific (CEB) and AirAsia Philippines warned clients against dubious Facebook pages bearing the airlines’ brand names.

“Do not engage with fake sites. Doing so will only compromise your personal data. Fake sites are usually phishing sites. The public must be forewarned,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna. — Mayen Jaymalin, Rudy Santos, Emmanuel Tupas, Rainier Allan Ronda

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