SURIGAO DEL NORTE – Surigao del Norte Representative Robert "Ace" Barbers has called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other concerned government regulatory agencies to compel all online delivery services firms to adopt more stringent measures prior to processing shipment of products by online sellers.

This call is in response to the continuing rise of "budol-budol" online selling scams victimizing mostly low-income consumers.

Barbers said the latest modus of online budol is by targeting houses with people whose only shopping behavior is to receive and pay cash on delivery (COD) parcels. The scammer would review previous records from target’s Facebook (FB) and other social media accounts, steal the personal data, and send them with low-value or worthless items.

Once the item/s had been delivered, mostly by bike-riding delivery men, the latter are instructed not to allow opening of the package, usually on COD basis, unless payment had been made by the unsuspecting would-be victims. If the package was opened before the delivery man leaves and was rejected, the victim would be required to pay RTS (return to sender) fees.

“I have received numerous reports of people victimized by online scammers who steal personal data from targeted victims’ FB, Messenger or other social media accounts and use them to deliver bogus goods to victims, some of whom did not even order such goods,” said Barbers, chair of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs.

To prevent occurrence of such scams and protect online buyers, Barbers said, the DTI and other concerned offices should compel all online delivery service firms in the country to thoroughly check the identity of all online sellers transacting business with them, requiring the latter to produce valid documents such as government issued identification cards so that consumers can get back at them if necessary.

"Sa mga legit na online sellers, may option ang online buyers/consumers tulad ng pag sauli ng items at makakuha ng refund kung mali o bogus yung nai-deliver sa kanila. Pero pag na scam ka, goodbye na sa pera mo (To legit online sellers, online buyers/consumers have options such as returning items and getting a refund if what was delivered to them is wrong or bogus. But if you get scammed, it's goodbye to your money)," Barbers said, adding that more and more are being victimized by this kind of modus but are not reported to the authorities.

The Mindanao solon said majority of the victims, some of whom he knew personally, had been duped by amounts ranging from PHP100 to PHP5,000 and would just opt to “charge them to experience" rather than report and pursue a refund or file a case against the bogus sellers.

Barbers said delivery service firms such as J&T Express, LBC, Abest Express, JRS Express, GrabExpress, 2Go Express, Lalamove, Mr. Speedy, Fastrack, among others, must require all online sellers transacting business with them to produce valid IDs and addresses to protect all consumers from online scammers.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) both have their respective Anti-Cybercrime Offices and “hotlines” where victims of digital scams can file their complaints.

“Pero alam natin na bihira lang sa mga mahihirap o low-income earners na biktima ang nagsa-sadya sa kanilang (PNP at NBI) mga opisina para mag-reklamo. Una, maliit lang naman na amount ang na-scam sa kanila. Pangalawa, may takot sila na baka lalo pang lumaki gastos nila kung magre-reklamo pa sila (But we know that it is rare for the poor or low-income earners who were victimized to go to their [PNP and NBI] offices to complain. First, only a small amount was scammed from them. Second, they are afraid that their expenses might increase even more if they complain),” he said.

The laws crafted against online/digital scams include the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) or crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications technologies; Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394) or protection against deceptive, unfair and conscionable sales acts and practices; and Electric Commerce Act of 2000 (RA 8792) which penalizes fraudulent dealings, transactions, arrangements, agreements, contracts and exchanges, and storage of information through the utilization of electronic medium.

The other common modus operandi online scammers use include “phishing” where scammers use e-mail lures to fish for passwords and financial data from the sea of Internet users; “vishing” (also known as voice phishing), or a socially engineered technique used to steal information or money from consumers via voice calls; and “e-mail spoofing” which is the creation of email messages with a forged sender address, something which is simple to do because the core protocols do not need authentication, and steal personal and financial from victims. (PNA)