MANILA — Single men and women who are searching for love online have been warned by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) against “love scammers”, an internet scam, which extorts money using the bureau from unsuspecting victims.
Customs Commissioner John Sevilla issued the warning for the public to be aware of the online syndicate using the name of the BOC and continue to receive reports of the presence of such scam.
“We are continuously receiving reports not only here in Manila but also from our provincial collection districts. However, very seldom do we receive official complaints, just phone calls from the victims that they have been scammed. But they don’t leave information. Maybe they are not comfortable talking about their predicament due to its sensitive nature,” he said in a statement.
The BOC head said that the modus operandi starts with the ‘love scammer’ introducing himself as a foreigner from either Australia, United Kingdom or the United States getting in touch with their prospective victims online using social networking sites like Facebook, internet chat rooms or other dating sites.
After befriending the victims online for several weeks or months they would send a message that they have sent a box containing expensive gifts like designer bags, jewelries, gadgets like laptops and smartphones via international door-to-door parcel complete with tracking number and invoice for the supposed shipment.
The victims, after several days would then receive an email, a phone call, or a text allegedly from an officer or an employee of the BOC informing them that package was held in Customs and that it would be sent to them only after they pay duties and taxes to be deposited in a designated bank account or money transfer service.
The ‘BOC official’ would even provide details of the breakdown of customs duties and taxes as proof.
However, even after depositing the money, the victims would never get their packages.
Sevilla noted that the bureau does not call, text or email recipients of parcels, as they will coordinate with the consolidator, forwarder or courier, if there are problems regarding with the packages.
“BOC does not also give assessments and computations of duties and taxes by email or text. These are computed and written on official BOC document that are payable only to the Bureau and not through any bank or money transfer service,” Sevilla said.
He added, “We urge the public to be more vigilant against these scams. Prior to making any payment, we advise recipients of emails purportedly sent by the BOC to inquire first through our public assistance contact channels.”