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Lower the Risk of Identity Fraud Scams from Philippines

Lower the Risk of Identity Fraud Scams from Philippines

Identity fraud and identity theft has already cost exorbitant amounts of money to the global economy in recent years. Philippines investigators, who have been working with online fraud and privacy protection for a long time, know that the amount of losses to identity theft and online crime have seen a significant rise, and will probably continue to grow.  With dismal economies around the world and limited employment opportunities, more crooks are looking to cash in by stealing your identity, personal data and banking information.  Thanks to social media and other online sharing, internet criminals now have an easier job to do, because half of the data is already being shared by you!

Identity theft is a specific form of fraud that occurs when an imposter obtains key pieces of personal data about a consumer—such as a Social Security or a driver’s license number or date of birth—and uses that information to impersonate the consumer by obtaining credit, merchandise or services in the name of the victim, or to sell the personal data to other criminals.  In some cases, criminals will even blackmail the victim or commit a crime in the victim’s name. Although for many years identity theft was majorly linked to credit card fraud, the truth is that a vast amount of other things can be done with someone´s individual identity information, including trading in the black market, money laundering, Filipina romance scams, corporate fraud, employee fraud, etc.  The anonymity that the Internet provides and the difficulty of tracking the criminals makes identity theft and online fraud a serious problem.

Savvy organized criminals in the Philippines and in many other parts of the world have identified social media and online dating sites as their prime victim hunting ground. Every day, people voluntarily share private information on public networks or share it with their online friends, who in many cases are still strangers, without realizing how this can affect them on a financial level (credit reports, bank accounts, etc) or on a personal level.  The more information about you in public view, the greater at risk you and your family members are.  The less known about you, the safer you are.

In the past few years, the media and privacy concerned organizations have been working on alerting the people about the risks associated to a careless use of the internet and to the growing risks of hackers. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of education and risk mitigation.

But how does a perpetrator begin to steal your identity? There are way too many variants and every day criminals create new methods, but a typical method is to play on the victims´ desire to find better business or employment opportunities, and/or the victims´ desire to help someone out who appears to be in distress,  which is a method used in online dating scams in the Philippines.

Increasingly, organized crime and terrorists are targeting people, especially from developed countries through Facebook, dating websites and even professional networks like Linkedin. They set up bogus profiles using someone else´s real identity and then, once they have connected with people, they gain their trust and start requesting the information they need.  In other cases, victims simply volunteer all the information criminals need, by putting too much in profiles or online.

As private investigators in the Philippines, we receive many inquiries from individuals who suspect they have been scammed through a dating website or a social network. For the victims, it is really hard to uncover the fraud without professional help, due to the fact that the information being used belongs to a real person. It takes a local professional investigator in Manila or the place of origin to uncover the identity theft scam or fraud. For the identity theft victims, it is most likely impossible to find out that someone is using their name and personal information to commit fraud.

Simple tips to avoid being victim:

Share less or no personal information online. Keep the interaction on social networks away from your personal life.  Have fun, but do not reveal anything about yourself.  Data such as address, date of birth, employer, dates you will be on vacation, and so on are valuable.  Protect them.

Be careful with unrequested emails, especially if those have links to places where you need to fill out your information before accessing.  Review your “friends” list on social media, and be sure you actually know and trust every single person on your list, or remove them.

Get professional help with dating background checks whenever you deal with a stranger online via online dating or other romantic interest. Once you determine there is an interest in a business or romantic relationship with someone, confirm the facts with due diligence.

Use a PO Box and separate email account and phone number for all online shopping.

Remember that online criminals are good at what they do.  Do what you can to stay safe and protect your data.  If you meet someone online, get a professional background check.

C. Wright
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