18 Common Scams in the Philippines – and How to Avoid them

Last Updated – Mar 28, 2022 @ 9:13 am

When the promise of easy money is presented to you, it’s tempting to give in. However, that may just make way for financial decisions that can gravely affect your future.

Some scams in the Philippines are nothing new, but with the changing times, new scams are also surfacing.

If you want to avoid getting scammed, the first step you need to take is to educate yourself.

What is a scam?

Simply put, it is a dishonest scheme done by someone to cheat other people.

A scam is basically a falsehood, dishonest, and fraudulent act designed to take advantage of unsuspecting people. Scams aim to get money to profit from the victim.

Take note that the scammers are usually well-dressed and seemingly knowledgeable. They also come with a story that is detailed so that you would be convinced to give them money.


Types of Scams

It is important to remember that scams can happen to anyone, anywhere.

But by being aware of the most common scams in the Philippines and knowing how to avoid them, you can protect yourself from financial troubles.

Phishing

This is a common type of scam used by scammers today. Here, a scammer tries to get your personal information through email or text, pretending to be a reputable company or a government agency.

The scammer may send you emails, saying that you won a lottery, or you are entitled to a certain amount of money.

The scammer may also send you an email verifying you of a package that requires your attention.

Once you click on the link or open the attachment, you will be redirected to a website that asks for personal information, or you will be directed to a website that will collect your information.

The scammer will then use your personal information to steal your identity.

Learn More: Data Privacy & Protection Tips

Buying or selling scams

Buying or selling scams involves falsely misrepresenting the quality or kind of goods or services. You may also be buying merchandise that doesn’t exist at all.

Fake charities & donation drives

It is true that the Philippines is a country filled with very generous and kind people. Moreso, Filipinos are well-known for their avid participation in charity works.

Sadly, these are the elements that scammers are using to swindle donations from people.

There are numerous reports of individuals posing as people of authority and asking for donations for a specific cause.

One of the most common examples of this post is when you see viral photos of people that need medical help on social media sites. However, the money you donated may not be used to help that person.

Job & employment scam

For this scam, scammers usually target job seekers. The victim is usually told that he or she is a qualified candidate for a certain job that can only be applied for online.

The victim is usually sent to a website or an email for the application. The victim is usually asked to submit his or her personal information to apply for the job.

Once the information is verified, the victim is invited to a job interview, and he or she will be asked to pay for the services he or she is supposedly entitled to. However, there really is no job.

Investment scam

Investment scams are when scammers lure the victim into investing in a certain product or service. The victim is usually told that he or she will earn a huge amount of money.

Threats & extortion

This scam involves a threat of a crime, injury, harm, or loss of a person’s personal information or property.

The scammer usually threatens to harm the victim if the victim fails to comply with the scammer’s demand.

Computer hacking

This is a scam where the scammer takes advantage of the victim’s information to use it for his or her own financial gain or benefit.

The scammer usually uses malware, spyware, viruses, keyloggers, and trojans to manipulate the victim’s computer and use the information stored in it.

The victim usually has to pay for the damage hacking has caused.

Impostor scams

This is one of the most lucrative scams in the Philippines. This scam involves a fake person pretending to be the victim’s known and trusted person.

The fake person may pretend to be a government employee, work in the law enforcement community, a trusted neighbor, a doctor, an expert in a specific field, or a family member.

The scammer will then explain the need for money, and the victim will be deceived into giving him money, believing that the scammer is telling the truth.

Unexpected money

The victim is usually informed that he or she has won a certain prize. Then, the victim is informed to pay a certain amount of money to claim the prize.

The prize usually turns out to be fake, and victims are left with a huge loss.

Dating & romance

This type of scam usually has the victim meet the scammer online. It also has a long-drawn process that can take weeks, months, or years.

Here, the victim believes that the scammer shares the same feelings as they do. These scammers are no strangers to the Filipino community. They pose as people from all over the world, from foreigners to locals.

The scammer just wants the victim to give him money, or use the victim’s personal information to cheat him or her out of money or other valuables.

The scammer usually ends the relationship after he or she has gotten what he wants.


How to Recognize a Scam

Wondering how to recognize a scam? Here are some of its telltale signs below.

Impressive ROI that seems too good to be true

Too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities are often a scam. Investments offering impressive returns, such as 50% per month, are too good to be true.

As a rule, high returns also mean high risk. Take the time to research the investment, and consider how realistic the promised return is.

Name changing

A quick change of names often turns out to be a red flag. Never invest in a company or an opportunity that is being promoted by a company that is changing its name.

If a company is a scam, it often switches its name in order to avoid getting caught.

Unsolicited & unexpected contact

Unsolicited and unexpected contact, whether it’s email, calls, and messages, it is a clear red flag.

If you receive a call or a message from an unsolicited source about an investment, it is most definitely a scam.

No paperwork

Be extremely careful if you are not provided with any paperwork. It is not an ordinary investment opportunity if there is no paperwork involved.

If a promising investment opportunity offers you no paperwork, you should stay away from it.

Nagging for information

Scammers often use various methods to get information from you. They may approach you via email, social media, phone, or in person.

They may try to gather as much information as they can to rip you off. If you are being nagged for information, stay away.

High-pressure sales tactics

High-pressure sales tactics are commonly used by scammers to trick you into buying their product.

They may use aggressive sales tactics such as pushing you to buy their product immediately and questioning your decision if you do not buy it.

They may also use the so-called lust of greed to convince you to buy their product.

No physical office or store

If you are asked to send money to a company without a physical office or store, it is a sign of a scam.

Even if the salesperson claims that the physical office is under construction, you should think twice.

Sketchy recruitment model

Any business opportunity that requires you to get other people to join under you is a scam. The idea behind this is to boost the number of investors and make the business seem viable.

However, most of the time, the people you recruit never receive any profit, and the recruiters earn from the investors.

Complicated models for investments

Investments that require you to understand complex models are often a scam.

The most credible investments are simple and straightforward, and leaders provide you with the opportunity to understand how much money you can expect to make realistically. 


18 Most Common Scams in the Philippines

Here are some of the scams you’ll most likely experience in the Philippines.

Love Scam

Type: Dating & Romance

The scammer will often build up their relationship with the victim by telling them how much they love the victim, or how much they think about the victim.

After building a relationship, the scammer will start to ask for money, often saying that the money is for travel expenses or for a family emergency.

It is normal for these scammers to catfish people online. This involves using another person’s photo or videos.

How to avoid Love scams:

While true love can definitely be found over the internet, you need to exercise caution at all times.

Never send money to a person you’ve only known online for a few weeks, or someone you haven’t met.


Work Abroad Scams

Type: Job & Employment

Many people are scammed by work abroad scams. These scammers will try to convince you to work for them for a very low salary, but in reality, you’re just making money for them.

It also includes scammers that pose as if they are part of a recruitment agency.

They ask for hefty processing fees, but victims don’t have a real work opportunity waiting for them.

How to avoid Work Abroad scams:

The best way to avoid work abroad scams is to look for a job with a real recruitment agency, or directly with reliable companies you want to work for. 


Lottery Scams

Type: Unexpected Money

There are many lottery scams in the country, be it phone calls or text messages.

These scammers will tell you that you’ve won a lottery and that you need to send money to claim the prize.

But of course, you will never get that prize. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it still works.

How to avoid Lottery scams:

Ignore messages that appear to come from lotteries or sweepstakes, saying that you’ve won a prize. These messages are nearly always fraudulent.


Card Skimming

Type: Banking scams

Banking scams such as card skimming takes place when a scammer tries to “skim” the information from a victim’s credit card.

This scam is typically found in a public place like a restaurant, where the scammer has access to the victim’s credit card.

The scammer will attach a card skimmer to the credit card reader, which will collect all of the information on the credit card.

The scammer will then use the card skimmer to store information and your card information will be accessed by other people.

Aside from that, you can also fall victim to ATM fraud. Many ATM’s found outside banks can easily be tampered with, therefore allowing thieves to get your information.

Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Also be aware of the type of ATM you’re using.

How to avoid card skimming:

Never let anyone take your credit card from you and run it through a card reader. If a card is not working at the ATM, contact the bank directly. Never let anyone assist you while using an ATM.

Learn More: 10 Credit Card Safety Tips

Also make sure to avoid ATM’s that are not part of the bank your financial institution is associated with.

The bank will have tighter security measures and usually have better security on their ATM’s.


Email Spoofing

Type: Online Scam

Online scams are some of the most prevalent scams in the country. There are many kinds of online scams you need to watch out for.

One example is email spoofing. Fraudsters may send an email that appears to be from a government agency, a delivery company, a shipping company, a banking institution, or a utility company.

The fraudulent email may inform the victim about the shipping of a package or it may inform the victim that they have won a prize or a lottery.

Then, the victim is instructed to click on a link or copy and paste the text into their browser.

The text or website will ask to enter information or to download a file. Unfortunately, this file is infected with a virus and the victim’s computer may be infected.

How to avoid email spoofing:

Never click a link in an email unless you are 100% sure that the email is legitimate. Always review the spelling of email senders and watch out for letters that look alike.

For example, the letter “l” may be interchanged to the letter “I.”


Online Lending Scams

Type: Online Scam

Another common scam is online lending. Some scammers will create a Facebook account that looks like it’s linked to a legitimate company.

They will tell you that they want to help you get a loan, but they will try to make you give them money in order to get the loan.

How to avoid online lending scams:

Never send money to a person you’ve only known online for a few weeks. If you need to take out a loan, go to a reputable lending institution.


Free Public Wi-Fi Scams

Type: Computer Hacking

It is also important to note that connecting to unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks is not recommended. 

Many public places offer free public Wi-Fi, but they may also offer a hacker the opportunity to access the user’s computer if the user is not protected.

How to protect yourself from hackers in public Wi-Fi:

Do not use public Wi-Fi. If this can’t be avoided, use a VPN or get your own pocket Wi-Fi.

Also, never enter your username and password on a website (or on a form in an email) that you do not trust.

Do not download files that have a weird file extension name.


Money Changer Scam

Type: Travel-related scams

Whether you’re a local or foreigner traveling in the country, here are some travel-related scams you should know.

The first one is money changer scam. Many people use money changers to exchange currency. However, sometimes these money changers will give you fake currency, shortchange you, or take your money from you.

How to avoid money changer scams:

Always count your money after you’ve got it from the money changer. Also, use a legitimate money changer if possible.


Laglag Bala Scam

Type: Travel-related scams

There’s another travel-related scam you should watch out for in airports.

Scammers may put a bullet or drugs inside your luggage to make it appear as if you are trafficking drugs or guns.

This will leave you arrested by authorities.

How to avoid bullet and drug plant scam:

Always make sure that your check-in and carry-on luggage are locked or secured.

Always be aware of where your bag is, and be wary of people who are getting too close to your personal belongings.


Familiar Face Scam

Type: Travel-related scams

Travelers also need to watch out for people who pose as familiar faces. While you’re traveling, you may run into people you know or claim that they know you.

These people can pose as your classmates from the university, or share the same hometown as you.

It’s easy to get carried away because you’re excited to see them again, but be careful of strangers who may be drawn to you because you’re familiar with them.

How to avoid familiar faces scam:

Never invite strangers/new friends/people you’ve just met to your hotel room.


Taxi Scams

Type: Travel-related scams

Another travel-related scam that is common especially in big cities are broken meters for taxis. Many taxi drivers in the Philippines will rig the meters in order to charge you a higher fee.

Taxi meters are required by law to have a sticker that says that they are broken, but the taxi driver will simply remove this sticker in order to make you pay a higher fee.

How to avoid broken taxi meters scam:

Always check the taxi meter before you get in, and regularly check it while your ride is ongoing.


Fake Travel Agencies

Type: Travel-related scams

You may also encounter fake travel agencies. Many travelers are scammed by fake travel agencies, mostly because they want to save money.

Unfortunately, there are many agencies that charge ridiculously low prices, but they will take your money and you will end up never receiving the services that you paid for.

How to avoid fake travel agencies:

Never book flights or hotels with a company that you’ve never heard of before, and make sure to check reviews online before booking with a company


Con/Budol Scams

Type: Impostor scams

Con and budol scams are so rampant in the country. One example is salisi or pickpocketing.

This usually involves a group of people who will hang out in the streets, posing as beggars, and will then rob the unsuspecting victim.

Sometimes, they will pose as someone who needs help or stage a distraction. When your concentration is compromised, a member of their gang will rob you.

How to avoid the salisi gang scam:

Always keep your valuables close to you, and if you’re in an area with a lot of people, hold onto your personal belongings.


Pyramid & Investment Schemes

Type: Investment scams

The Philippines is home to tons of investment schemes. Over the years, hundreds of millions have been lost due to this type of scam. It’s exactly why the meme “open minded ka ba” has become popular in the country.

There are many types of investment schemes. One example is multilevel marketing which is a business where a salesperson earns commission and other rewards based on their own sales as well as their direct and indirect team sales.

This form of marketing is often seen as a form of pyramid scheme because it incentivizes people to recruit more people to build your network and this network may collapse at some point.

Another investment scheme is called network investing, a form of pyramid scheme.

The main difference between multi-level marketing and network marketing is that in network marketing, there are no levels. Instead, distributors receive commissions from each other’s sales.

This form of business opportunity is often seen as a form of pyramid scheme because the only way to succeed is to recruit other people.

You should also be wary of Ponzi schemes. In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid using money contributed by new investors, rather than earned by the company.

New investors must be continually recruited, in order to keep the scheme going.

How to avoid a pyramid and investment schemes:

Never invest in a company that you don’t know about. Always do your research, and do not feel “FOMO” if all your peers are joining something that seems sketchy. If a company’s track record is short and questionable, it’s probably a scam.


Cheap Goods Scam

Type: Counterfeit

Many people will go down to the market to buy cheap goods.

However, since these goods are cheap, they will be fake, and the seller will claim that the goods are real, but not that they’re fake, and then they will demand that the victim pay them more money.

How to avoid the cheap goods scam:

Be wary of goods that are “too good to be true.” For example, if a seller is offering you a Converse shoe for only P500, that is most likely a counterfeit item.


Spiked Drinks

Type: Travel-related scams

Many people will drink alcohol at a bar or a club, and then they will be drugged and robbed.

How to avoid spiked drinks:

Never accept drinks from anyone.


Fake Policemen

Type: Impostor Scams

Many people are robbed by fake policemen, who act as a police officer and tell the victim to open their wallets.

How to avoid fake policemen:

Never bribe a police officer.


Counterfeit Money

Type: Counterfeit

Many people are victimized by counterfeit money, mostly because they have no idea how to identify counterfeit money.

How to avoid counterfeit money:

If the money is paper, hold the bill up to a light. If it’s fake, the light will look through it.

Keep in mind that fake money will feel a bit different than real money.


12 Tips on How to Protect yourself and Avoid Scams

Want to know some tips to protect yourself from scams? Keep on reading.

1. Avoid unexpected contact

This is one of the easiest ways to quickly tell a scammer apart from a legitimate contact.

If a person you don’t know contacts you out of the blue, be it via text message, instant messaging, email, or through any other means, that’s not likely a legitimate contact.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer a call from a number you don’t recognize and didn’t expect, it just means you should use common sense and be aware of the situation.

2. Don’t give out personal information

This is a simple one, but it’s surprising how many people fall for a scam when they’re told that the person calling is from a trusted organization and just needs a little personal information such as their birthday, or the last digits of their credit card number.

When you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, sometimes the best thing to do is to just hang up.

If they really are from a trusted organization, they’ll call back later.

3. Always keep your software up to date

This is especially important if you use your computer to access social networking sites or online banking.

The more up-to-date your software, the more secure it is, and the harder it is for hackers to gain access to your information.

4. Make sure you have a firewall

Keeping your apps and OS up to date is not enough. You should also invest in firewall.

This refers to software that protects you from any outside intrusion. It monitors your network activity and will automatically shut down any suspicious activity.

5. Have strong passwords

Strong passwords are one of the keys to preventing hackers from gaining access to your private information.

A strong password should have at least 8 characters and should contain letters, numbers, and symbols. It should also be a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.

Don’t use obvious or easy-to-guess passwords, such as your name, your date of birth, or your phone number.

It is also not recommended to use the same password for multiple sites or accounts.

6. Do not make advance payments

When you send money to someone you don’t know, you can’t get it back. You’re not just losing your money, but you’re also exposing your bank account to danger.

If a scammer gets hold of your bank account details, they may be able to access all your money.

7. Use safe & secure Wi-Fi connections

Public Wi-Fi connections may seem like a great way to save some money on your monthly mobile data bill, but they can actually be a big risk to your privacy and security.

When you log onto a network that’s not password-protected, you’re essentially broadcasting your private information to anyone who wants to listen in.

You may want to protect your private information by paying for a secure Wi-Fi connection when you’re in a public place, such as a coffee shop or a restaurant.

8. Only transact with reputable sellers

The safest way to avoid a potential scam is to only transact with sellers who have a good reputation and a history of providing good products and good service.

When you’re buying things online, you don’t have the advantage of seeing the product before you buy.

The only way to be sure that you’re getting a legitimate product is to buy from a seller who has a good reputation in the community. Look for ratings and reviews.

9. Be suspicious by default

As you may have realized, scams are pretty easy to come by. Keeping this in mind, you should always be on guard and suspicious of every email, text, or phone call you receive.

We’re not saying you should assume that any call you receive is a scam, but you should be aware that any electronic communication can be a potential scam, and you should take precautions.

Remember that the best way to avoid a scam is to be alerted to the red flags and not get caught in the first place.

10. Activate two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a security feature that many websites and apps have implemented. It makes it harder for hackers to gain access to your private information.

In addition to entering your login details and your password, you have to enter a code that the website sends to your phone.

This prevents hackers from gaining access to your account even if they have your password.

11. Ignore pop-ups

Pop-ups are usually a big red flag, especially if you’re visiting an unfamiliar website. When you see a pop-up, it’s a good indication that you’re about to encounter spam or malware.

Even if the pop-up is from an official-looking organization, like your bank or Philippine Sweepstakes, it’s still a good idea to close the page.

With this in mind, don’t click on links or buttons unless you’re absolutely sure that they’re legitimate.

12. Resist acting immediately or giving in to pressure

Scammers count on your eagerness to follow through on an offer and pressure you into sending them money, divulging personal information, or sending an advance payment.

Avoid this type of pressure by waiting 24 hours before you take action. This will give you some time to reflect on the offer and to do some research.

This may sound like a long time, but when you’re dealing with a big decision, it’s actually a good idea to go slow.

If you send money or divulge personal information too quickly, you’re more likely to regret it.


What to Do When You’ve Been A Victim Of A Scam In The Philippines

If you lost money, what should you do? First, do not be embarrassed. Many people lose money to scammers.

It is not your fault.

Report it to your bank immediately. Your bank can help you to reverse the transaction, thus getting back the money you lost.

You can also report the scam. 

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you need to get the following information:

  • Name of the Person and Company 
  • Address of the Person and the Company
  • Phone Number (not cellular phone number)

Then, you can report it to the following authorities and government agencies.

For bogus solicitations related to insurances, trusts for charities, or mutual benefits, report to:

Insurance Commission

  • 1071 United Nations Avenue, Ermita, Manila,
  • Web: www.insurance.gov.ph
  • Email: reportscam@insurance.gov.ph
  • Phone: 523–8461 (to 70) | Local 111, 130

For scams and suspicious transactions such as false advertising, selling or substandard products, unfair business practical, pyramiding, and unfair packaging of goods, report to:

Department of Trade and Industry

  • 385 Industry and Investments Bldg., Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City
  • Web: www.dti.gov.ph
  • Email: ask@dti.gov.ph
  • Phone: (+632) 751–0384 (Trunk Line) | (+632) ‎975–7965 (Complaints)

If you need to verify whether or not a company has license to solicit funds or sell investment instruments, report to:

Securities and Exchange Commission

  • Secretariat Building, PICC Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City
  • Web: www.sec.gov.ph | Enforcement and Investor Protection Department
  • Phone: 818–0921 (Trunk Line) | 818–5704 (Hotline)

If you want to seek free legal assistance, especially if you cannot afford legal services, contact:

Public Attorney’s Office

  • 4th & 5th Floors DOJ Agencies Building, Diliman, Quezon City
  • Web: www.pao.gov.ph
  • Email: pao_executive@yahoo.com
  • Phone: (02) 929–9436 (Hotline) | Local 106, 107, 159

For scams related to investments, paluwagan, online fraud and many more, or if you need immediate action for criminal cases, report to:

Philippine National Police

  • Anti-Cybercrime Group Building, Camp Crame, Quezon City
  • Web: www.pnpacg.ph | Anti-Cybercrime Group
  • Email: pnp.anticybercrimegroup@gmail.com
  • Phone: +63 (02) 414–1560 | 09985988116 (Hotline)

For fraudulent and suspicious transactions, report to:

National Bureau of Investigation

  • NBI Building, Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila
  • Web: www.nbi.gov.ph
  • Email: director@nbi.gov.ph
  • Phone: (+632) 532–8231 to 532–8238

About MJ de Castro

MJ de Castro is the lead personal finance columnist at Grit PH.

MJ started her career as a writer for her local government’s City Information Office. Later on, she became a news anchor on PTV Davao del Norte.

Wanting to break free from the shackles of her 9-to-5 career to live by the beach, she pursued remote work. Over the years, she has developed a wide specialization on health, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, branding, and travel.

Now, she juggles writing professionally, her business centering on women’s menstrual health, and surfing.

Education: Ateneo de Davao University (AB Mass Communication)
Focus: Personal Finance, Personal Development, Entrepreneurship, & Marketing

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