Online sellers, customers warned vs. 'middleman scam'

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

April 17, 2024, 2:20 pm

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) warned netizens to be cautious in transacting online amid the emergence of a new scam.

In a statement Wednesday, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) Director Sidney Hernia said the "middleman scam" involves bogus sellers who post items on social media platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace, and use transaction receipts of buyers in dealing with the real sellers.

He said in this scam, an individual or group positions themselves as an intermediary between two parties in a transaction, but instead exploits the trust of both parties to defraud them and disappears after receiving the payment or the items.

Hernia said the scam was the subject of the ACG's April 6 operation in Sampaloc, Manila, which resulted in the arrest of a suspect only identified as “Juan,” who posed as a legitimate seller of modems.

The operation stemmed from the complaint of a victim who bought 10 modem units from the suspect. The suspect then asked the victim for payment and a transaction receipt.

“The transaction receipt that the victim sent was used by the suspect to avail of 10 units of modem to the real seller. The delivery was processed but was later canceled when the real seller didn't receive the payment," Hernia said.

He said the victim and the real seller then realized they became victims of a middleman scam.

The suspect is now facing a case of violation of Article 315 (Estafa/Swindling) of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 6 of RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012).

Hernia, meanwhile, reminded netizens to always verify the sellers or buyers by checking their profile, reviews, and ratings on the platform, if available.

“It is also important to use secure payment methods that offer buyer or seller protection. Communicate directly through the official contact information and avoid dealing with intermediaries or third parties who claim to facilitate the transaction,” he said. (PNA)