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Tricky schemes to watch out for

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Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by someone claiming to be from a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data.

In the rising tide of the Philippine economy, many ships have received bounty. Amid the flood of foreign investors and new businesses into the country, many Filipinos have found more cash to spend or save or invest, and this has opened the doors to a future of financial success.

Yet, higher incomes and good financial literacy are sometimes not enough. One should also be wary of those who wish to take advantage or even prey on the careless and unsuspecting with scams and frauds. What use is a sizeable bank account if a malicious hacker manages to break into it and steal it all for himself?

Among the most common frauds and scams in the country to watch out for, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) Financial Consumer Protection Department, are text message scams.

As the Philippines is one of the countries with the most mobile phone users in the world, with over 60% of the population reported to possess and use a mobile phone, this is unsurprising. Text message scams often work by telling SIM owners fraudulent claims regarding huge amounts of money, the most common of which involve stranded relatives asking for help, raffle prizes, discounts and the like.

Among the most common frauds and scams in the country to watch out for, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) Financial Consumer Protection Department, are text message scams.

Users are then asked to either transfer prepaid load to an unknown mobile number or share personal information which can then be exploited. Victims of text scams should report incidents to their telecommunications providers and the local authorities.

Another common type of fraud is credit card or debit card skimming, in which criminals use a small device to steal credit card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction, such as ATM withdrawals. The skimmer device copies and stores credit or debit card details, such as the card number, expiration date, and the holder’s full name, whenever a card is swiped through it, allowing crooks to make fraudulent charges or even commit identity theft with a counterfeit card.

There is also a possibility of criminals placing a small, undetectable camera nearby ATMs to record users entering their PIN, which can give the thieves all of the information needed to make fake cards and withdraw cash from the cardholder’s bank account.

Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they notice unauthorized charges on their account, have their card unexpectedly declined, or receive an overdraft notification in the mail, which makes it difficult to track down culprits. Fortunately, due to the urging of the BSP, many local banks have switched from magstripe credit and debit cards to EMV-chip enabled cards designed to deter card skimmers.

Other scams that the BSP identified as common threats involve the use of the Internet through e-mails and Web sites, such as phishing. Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by someone claiming to be from a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data. Through cleverly designed or otherwise eye-catching e-mails, thieves can manipulate or fool users into giving away personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords.

Related to this is spoofing, which is a type of scam where criminal elements attempt to gain unauthorized access to a user’s system or information by pretending to be the user. Spoofing works by tricking users, through fraudulent Web sites or by other means, into giving away sensitive information in order to gain access to one’s bank account, computer system or to steal personal information, such as passwords.

“When faced with a scam fraud, stop, think and be skeptical. Do not be pressured into making hasty decisions and check things out before you buy or sign anything right away,” the BSP said.

“Stay calm and do not immediately follow instructions coming from a stranger for any demand of money or valuables in exchange for a kidnapped relative or hospitalized family member. Verify first with other immediate family members the veracity of the call received.”

The central bank also advised individuals to remain vigilant with any and all financial transactions they participate in, by checking the legitimacy of merchants and investment companies through independent agencies. Investors were also given reminders to remain cautious when making investments.

“Never invest what you cannot afford to lose. Never send money to pay for taxes, fees, prepaid cards on domestic, foreign text or lottery winnings, which you did not join. Legitimate promos use only three or four digit phone numbers,” the BSP said.

“Do not be fooled by the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation. Safeguard your personal information by not giving private information unnecessarily.

As soon as you are convinced that your identity has been compromised, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately.” — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran