COVID-19 has been challenging for many Filipino families. It is understandable, then, that many of us search for ways to augment or replace our income.
Unfortunately, scammers have no qualms about preying on unsuspecting Filipinos even during these difficult times. In fact, during times of crisis, we may be more prone to making careless financial decisions.
The best investments, of course, are those that we understand. Investing our money, especially in supposedly high-reward opportunities, should only follow after deep understanding of the assets involved. There is no way to get rich easily with investments. After all, if extremely high rates of return were possible within a short span of time, why would some people want your money instead of just investing their own?
Scammers have recently been promoting “cryptocurrency investment” schemes on social media and website ads. These schemes are popular among scammers because cryptocurrency is a complex topic. Few potential investors understand its mechanics, so false claims are difficult for investors to readily verify and dismiss. Many of these schemes, shown below, even claim to be backed by well-known personalities, such as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and former Senate President Manny Villar. This is not true.
If you see these advertisements, block and report the page to better protect yourself. For scam ads found on the Google search result page, shopping page, Youtube, and other Google platforms, such as Gmail, you can visit https://support.google.com/google-ads/troubleshooter/4578507#ts=6006595 and fill out the form. You will need to provide a click string of the ad you are giving feedback about. To do this, right-click the ad and copy the link address. If right-click is disabled, you may need to disconnect your computer from the internet, click the ad, and then copy the URL in the address bar in your browser. (More ways here: https://support.google.com/admanager/answer/6161675)
Twitter similarly has a feedback form to report fake ads.
For Facebook, you can simply click the (•••) next to the ad, click Report Ad, and follow the on-screen instructions.
While you cannot opt out of seeing Facebook advertisements completely, you can opt out of ads based on your browsing habits. The ads that we see on Facebook are typically based on our profile and the kind of content we access.
To opt out of this system, log on to your Facebook account, and click on “Settings” at the upper right-hand corner of your homepage. Then, scroll down to the section in “Settings” marked “Ads.” You’ll see a number of ad preferences. Go to “Ad Settings.” Change the settings for “Ads based on data from partners” and “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products you see elsewhere” to “Not Allowed.”
The section marked “Ads that include your social actions” (i.e., pages you have liked) can be changed from being seen by “Only Friends” to “Only Me” as well.
Predatory advertisements are most effective when they can target their audience. If the ads cannot target you because they cannot “see” who you are and what you like, it will be difficult for them to craft ads that you are likely to fall for.
Apart from protecting yourself, you can do many potential victims a favor by reporting suspicious advertisers to government authorities.
For suspicious investment schemes, you may contact the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the SEC through their hotline number at (02) 8818-6337.
For malicious messages, lodge reports to the NBI Anti-Fraud Division at (02) 8525-4093 or e-mail at [email protected]. You may also send a message through the NBI’s website at www.nbi.gov.ph or their official Facebook account.
You may also contact the PNP Anti-Crime Group (PNP-ACG) through www.pnpacg.ph or hotline number at (02) 8723-0401 local 5313.
Safe investment options
Before you invest your hard-earned money, take the time to research and understand the legitimate investment instruments available in the market. The SEC has provided a list on their website, containing the names of firms and individuals permitted to sell investment products.: (insert link: SEC-registered firms and individuals https://www.sec.gov.ph/registered-firms-individuals-and-statistics/registered-firms-and-individuals/)
A safe option is government bonds issued by the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr). Government-issued securities such as Retail Treasury Bonds (RTBs) and Premyo Bonds are safe, low-risk, and accessible through convenient digital and over-the-counter channels. These bonds offer attractive interest rates that earn on a quarterly basis. Proceeds from bonds are used to raise funds for the government’s projects, particularly the country’s economic recovery program.
You can check out the BTr’s latest bond offerings here.
The government is also pursuing reforms to make investing in legitimate opportunities easier and simpler. The Duterte administration’s proposed Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act (PIFITA) will simplify the tax regime for bonds and stocks by reducing the number of tax rates on financial transactions from 80 to 36. Once enacted, PIFITA will make it easier for everyday Filipino investors to put their money in safe and secure investment opportunities.
It can be frustrating to have to do these precautions yourself. When it comes to protecting your hard-earned money, it pays to keep a critical eye on everything. Great investments take time, patience, and well-informed choices from the investor. The chances of picking them off from a social media advertisement are extremely slim.