Scams in the Philippines

Many foreigners visiting or living in the Philippines become victims of scams or frauds, and some have lost considerable amounts of money.

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There are a variety of ways to relieve unsuspecting or naïve foreigners of their money.

Relationship fraud

This is a persistent problem in the Philippines, and it is not uncommon for Filipinos to enter into marriages with foreign citizens solely for financial or immigration purposes. Relationships developed through correspondence, especially those begun on the internet, are particularly susceptible to manipulation.

Marriage to a New Zealand citizen doesn’t confer New Zealand citizenship, nor does it make the new spouse automatically eligible for entry to New Zealand. A foreign spouse requires a temporary entry visa to enter and visit New Zealand. Please ensure that if you intend for your partner to travel to New Zealand with you or to visit you, you are aware of the visa requirements that must be met as defined by Immigration New Zealand.

Spiked drinks

Some criminals add knockout or ‘date rape’ drugs (known locally as Ativan) to drinks or food to subdue and rob their victims. It is best not to accept food, drink or rides in private vehicles from strangers, even if they appear legitimate.

Phone scams

The perpetrator makes a telephone call usually to a the victim’s home and tells the person answering (usually a member of the domestic staff) that the resident or resident’s guest has been involved in an accident. The caller says the resident or guest is in distress and that money is immediately needed for the urgent medical treatment. (Sometimes the reasons for the immediate need of money vary, e.g. to pay off somebody so the media doesn’t get involved.)

The caller advises the staff member to leave the telephone off the hook, search the house for money or valuables such as jewellery, and take it to a rendezvous point.

Domestic staff should be warned about this type of scam. They should be trained not to comply with such demands and given advice about what to do if called.

Card scams

These can involve being befriended by a local and asked to join in a friendly game of cards. Once you have won a few times, the stake increases and your winning streak disappears. These scams can have serious consequences — local gangs have been known to force victims into withdrawing large sums from ATM machines. Avoid getting involved in card games.

Taxi scams

Taxis are the recommended form of public transportation in the Philippines, but you need to take some precautions:

  • Don’t enter a taxi if there is anyone other than the driver in it.
  • Before getting in a taxi check that the doors can be locked from the inside, otherwise you’re vulnerable when stopped in traffic.
  • Check the back seat to make sure that no-one is hiding on the floor.
  • Ensure the doors can be opened from the inside.
  • Request that the meter is used (sometimes a taxi driver might request a cash payment instead of using the meter).
  • Take a mental note of the licence plate number.
  • Once in the taxi conspicuously text the number of the taxi to someone, or at least pretend to do so. Remember to text the contact when you have arrived safely.
  • When driving in the city, make sure that the doors are locked and the windows rolled up.
  • If the driver is unwilling to comply with your requests, it is best to wait for another cab.

Credit card fraud

You should be vigilant when using credit cards. One common form of credit card fraud uses an electronic device to retrieve and record information, including the PIN, from the card’s magnetic strip. The information is then used to make unauthorised purchases. To limit your exposure to this scam, never let you card out of your sight.

When using cards in ATMs choose a machine that is attended by guards or in a busy place. Look to see that the ATM has not been tampered with. Cover your hand when entering your PIN.

Other scams and frauds

Inheritance scam letters and pyramid game scams are also frequently received via email.

New themes and variations for conducting scams are constantly appearing. Visitors and residents should be alert to being targeted by even the friendliest of people, whether locals or foreign nationals.

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