Online scams spike during quarantine

Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) – October 25, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Cases of online scams and computer-related identity theft have increased during the community quarantine, the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) said.

Data from the ACG showed that 869 online scams were recorded from March to September 2020, higher by 37.28 percent compared to 633 incidents during the same period last year.

Identify theft where people are posing as other persons to commit crimes increased by 21.47 percent from 298 to 362.

ACG spokesman Maj. Joseph Villaran said criminals have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, where people are forced to mostly stay indoors to avoid contracting the virus. He said people have shifted to online transactions, using social media platforms such as Facebook, to buy products.

“People are afraid to go out because of physical contact and the pandemic,” Villaran said in Filipino in a phone interview.

Unscrupulous individuals have used Facebook and other social media outlets to fool buyers. Among these cases are victims receiving items different from the ones they purchased.

“For online selling, there are items that never arrive or are different from the original item,” Villaran said.

In San Pedro City, Laguna, a 24-year-old man lost P17,500 to a fraudulent transaction on Instagram for an iPhone 11 last Wednesday.

The suspect, identified by police as Yvonne Villasica, could no longer be contacted after she received the payment from the victim through mobile wallet G-Cash.

The ACG noted the two specific crimes surged during the community quarantine while cybercrimes in general went down by 4.26 percent, from 3,001 to 2,873.

Among the notable decreases are voyeurism, from 390 to 255 or 34.61 percent, computer hacking which went down by 50.52 percent from 190 to 94, illegal access from 159 to 127 or a decrease of 20.12 percent and online libel which went down by 3.93 percent, from 711 to 683.

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