Investment scammers: Targeting SAP beneficiaries?
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos (The Freeman) - May 11, 2020 - 12:00am

After a multitude of scams that victimized the investing public for the past several years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stepped up its information campaign against fraudulent business practices.

It seems, in fact, that scammers are always on the go as the advisories are so regular, so frequent. 

Indeed, apart from the KAPA-Community Ministry International Inc. (KAPA, for brevity) which notoriously used the pious facade of its denomination to lure gullible investors, there are new entrants that are fooling or are trying to trick the public as well. 

The SEC, in its latest advisories, identified these five more groups engaged in investment solicitation activities without the necessary licenses. These are CryptoInvestWith.Us (CIW.U), Won Project/ Won Network/ Won Foundation, Captcha Philippines Inc., Fil-Invest, and Xtreme House of Beauty Trading Corp. 

Among others, “the CIW.U guarantees a 1 percent return after six days and up to 20 percent return per week on investors’ bitcoin deposits.” SEC further reported that based on the information it gathered, “CIW.U is the new name of MAGINVESTKA.ONLINE (MIKO)”, subject of a similar advisory issued by the SEC earlier.

Likewise, Won Project is harping on investments in a cryptocurrency called WONCOIN.  It “promises a daily profit of 1.5 percent for a period of 100 days on investment packages worth $100 to $20,000.” It also “promises commissions from the purchases of referrals and points convertible into cash and incentives such as cars and international travels.”  Moreover, “it is offering a promotion where investors would supposedly receive an additional 50 percent bonus on their WONCOIN purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Captcha Philippines also commits to pay its “shareholders” a 25 percent weekly return on their investments.” It also gives its members the “opportunity to earn up to P500 daily or P15,000 monthly by purchasing an account worth P2,500 and solving CAPTCHA tests, plus P125 for every direct and indirect recruit up to the third level of their networks.”  Fil-Invest (not related, whatsoever, to Gotianun’s companies), on the other hand, “entices the public to bankroll its gambling activities, particularly in Baccarat, in exchange for 5 percent to 20 percent monthly returns.”

Not to be outdone, under its investment scheme, Xtreme “baits investors largely with direct referral, sales match and pairing bonuses, and thereby emboldens them to recruit more members. Its targets include, among others, “students and senior citizens.” It also “offers entry packages worth P1,888 to P28,888.” It recently offered “two more packages worth P1,588 and P1,988 with the promise that investors could double their investments in only 30 days while staying at home during the enhanced community quarantine.”

Obviously, these schemes are similar to the Aman Future in 2012 and KAPA last year.  These are all Ponzi schemes.

  Ponzi schemes, actually, are not difficult to understand. Commonly, all these schemes have three basic steps.  First, they convince a few investors to trust them with their money for investment purposes with beyond normal but supposedly believable returns or interest.  Secondly, after a specified time, return the invested amount plus the agreed interest or rate of return.  Lastly, emphasizing the historical success, convince paid early investors to tell their friends of the benefits and lure them to reinvest theirs. 

As we all know, due to these “too-good-to-be-true” benefits, most of our “get-rich-quick” enthusiasts are either still grieving until today for the loss of their hard-earned money or are still spending sleepless nights staring at the prospect of losing their homes which are used as collateral to obtain money for these very high-yielding investments.   

The difference though between the previous scammers and the current ones is the timing and the amount of their investment packages. Apparently, the timing and the packages are both suspicious. For one, their entry packages are just too small.  Extreme had it at P1,888 while Captcha Philippines placed it at P2,500.  On the other hand, WONCOIN had it at $100 or P5,000. 

Considering the situation we are in, we can surmise that they are actually trying to hit a market that is vast in numbers and have enough money (given the small entry packages) to spare for such investment packages. These are the beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) who recently received between P6,000 and P8,000.  With beneficiaries numbering in millions, this market is worth several billions of “easy-to-part” doled-out money.

So that, today, as we stare on the prospect that these new scammers will take advantage on our SAP beneficiaries’ gullibility or lust and greed for money, we should be constantly reminded by the misfortunes the victims have suffered then and have continued to agonize until today. Moreover, let us all heed the legitimate warning of the SEC. Ignoring both is a monumental display of stupidity.

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