Authorities on Tuesday warned the public of a syndicate engaged in a “package scheme”using the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Bureau of Customs in the illegal activity.
Customs has been receiving reports about the scheme through online, email, text message and calls.
Scammers use dummies or fake accounts in social media, emails, text messages or phone calls to lure victims. Some would even use the name of Customs bureau and pose as employees.
They usually get in touch with prospective victims online via chat or dating websites. After several weeks or even months, the perpetrators would send a message to their victims through email, promising to send gifts ranging from luxury bags, jewelry, laptop computers and other electronic gadgets via international door-to-door parcel.
Investigation showed that victims are duped to pay duties and taxes for the release of the package through money remittance or personal bank accounts. Bogus receipts, tracking numbers of packages and other documents are also sent to the victims to make the transaction look legitimate.
The scams can also be sophisticated at times, involving fake tracking website of the said courier/freight forwarder where victims would be asked to visit and see the status of the supposed parcel.
Manila International Airport Authority general manager Eddie Monreal advised the victims to report the incidents to the authorities.
“I call on everyone to be careful with their dealings with people they do not know. It pays to be cautious in this regard. We advise the public to seek the help of police authorities in case of doubt,” Monreal said.
In 2018, Monreal’s men arrested a 34-year old woman in an entrapment operation based on the complaint lodged by one Shirley Campones.
Campones sought the help of the airport authorities after an unidentified person sent a text message, asking her to bring some 11, 000 US dollars in exchange for a package sent to her by one Fred McNeil who befriended her through social media.
Prior to the test message, Campones said Mc Neil told her he was coming to Manila and bringing packages but he is being held at the airport in Turkey because Customs authorities there found several expensive jewelries in his bag.
The texter asked for a meet-up at a restaurant at the departure level of NAIA Terminal 1 saying that he/she already have the package from McNeil. Campones was advised to bring the money in exchange for it.
But Campones became doubtful and sought the help of the airport officials who set an entrapment operation.
Campones then met a woman named Miriam Kanoute, a resident of Makati City, who introduced herself as a friend of Mc Neil. The authorities then apprehended the suspect after Campones handed to her a white envelope containing the money.
The Customs bureau reiterates that it solely assess duties and taxes on parcels and such may be paid on a cash basis through the courier/freight forwarder upon delivery at doorstep or pick up the parcel at the nearest local branch.
The duties and taxes can only be collected through accredited agent banks (AAB) and not through personal bank accounts or other money transfer services.