What are Online Love Scams?
To put into context and answer the question: “What are online love scams?” Online love scams are fraud schemes where someone pretends to be romantically interested. However, they are only interested in getting money or personal information.
It has become a growing concern in the Philippines, especially since POGOs are doing it. Because of the industry’s current limited operations, thanks to the restrictions placed by the Senate, most operators have resorted to criminal activities, like love scamming.
POGOs, or Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, have been constantly under fire from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). The reason is that this controversial business has been linked to human trafficking and unregulated gambling.
Recently, the agency ordered POGO operators to renew their licenses. They have until September 17 to do so.
Otherwise, they will be considered illegal and subjected to constant monitoring by the authorities.
But in all fairness, some POGOs are legitimate and have the license to show for it. However, a few have been discovered to be a front and have been conducting criminal activities.
POGOs have been associated with human trafficking and money laundering. Hence, they are required to be under constant investigation by the authorities. But they seemed to undermine Philippine laws. Recently, numerous love scams have been popping up online, and it is about time the government addressed this concern.
Because of the POGOs’ stained reputation in the country, even PAGCOR-adhering gaming companies like OKBet are stereotyped as “dirty.”
Love Scam Incidents
Love scams have been prevalent worldwide, and the Philippines is no exception. There have been many incidents, and last July 4, 2023, a man from Metro Manila lost about P100,000 when he got duped by a “woman” he matched on a dating app.
GMA News reported the most recent love scam bust on August 2. The Philippine National Police arrested 650 workers of a POGO hub in Pasay for love scamming.
Another operation happened last May 4, where a POGO hub at Sun Valley Clark, Pampanga, was also raided for the same suspicion. It resulted in 1,000 human trafficking victims being rescued.
Typical Format of Online Love Scams in the Philippines
According to the Bureau of Customs, the typical format of online love scams here in the Philippines involves the following steps:
1. Creating a Fake Profile
Scammers create attractive profiles on social media, dating websites, or other platforms. They use fake names and stolen photos. Sometimes, they claim to be from the same country as the victim to establish trust.
2. Building a Relationship
The scammer contacts the victim, often sending flattering messages and expressing affection. They may pretend to share similar interests and values to create an emotional bond.
3. Gaining Trust
The scammer invests time in getting to know the victim, sharing personal stories, and asking the victim to share personal information.
4. Creating a Crisis
Once a level of emotional attachment is established, the scammer creates a fake emergency or crisis that requires financial assistance. This could be a medical emergency, legal trouble, or any other plausible situation to elicit sympathy and financial support from the victim.
5. Asking for Money
The scammer eventually asks the victim for money, often claiming it is for urgent needs. They may also ask the victim to send gifts or provide financial assistance to meet in person for travel expenses.
6. Receiving Payments
If the victim agrees to send money, the scammer may use various methods such as wire transfers, money orders, or gift cards to receive the funds. Today, these scammers prefer cryptocurrency because it is almost untraceable.
Once they obtain the money, they may disappear or continue to ask for more.
Sadly, many fall prey to love scamming. According to the Department of Justice, 9 out of 10 Filipinos, or at least 87%, have been victimized by this malicious activity.
To avoid falling victim to this scheme, one should be:
Always check the authenticity of online profiles. If the person seems too good to be true, they are likely a poser.
Sensitive information should never be shared with anyone, especially with strangers. Never trust anyone you just met online.
Untrusting When A Stranger Asks for Money
Be wary of individuals asking for money, especially if you haven’t met them. In this digital world, if you are very trusting, you can easily fall into a love scam in the Philippines.
Like an Investigator
Do background checks, such as reverse image searches. That way, you will find out if the photos sent to you were authentic or have been linked with scam reports.
The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group also released tips and recommendations that could also help avoid becoming a victim of this scheme, such as:
- Be careful when befriending strangers online;
- Do not respond hastily to any requests for money, even if they sound desperate or troubled;
- Do not send money to people you do not know well, especially if you have not met in person;
- Do not reveal too much about yourself, particularly in photos or videos, to prevent you from being blackmailed later.
Online love scams in the Philippines pose a risk to the country’s cyber security quality. It is important to understand that scammers are masters of deceit and emotional exploitation. Always remain vigilant when surfing the internet and doubt those you meet online.