Beware of scammer making online purchase, then demands for return of ‘overpayment’


Pinky Concha Colmenares

In the past few days, text scams popped in my mobile phone like popcorn in a hot pot. Really.

Notifications that I had won ₱860,000 in a raffle, that there’s a ₱5,000, ₱10,000, ₱20,000 bonus waiting for me, and many more, have been popping up in my mobile phone number at least twice a day in the past week. All I have to do is to press a link that’s at the end of the message.

Of course, I did not do that. I’ve read many reports of people getting scammed after they press that link – because now “they” know that the number belongs to a real person. The messages will come one after the other after that.

By now you’d think everyone you know, and every scammer out there, would know that everyone is now aware of those dubious messages to get one to part with a few pesos to get a big cash bonus – all through a link! Unfortunately, not. Even the scammers have created other ways to fool people, and it still finds victims.

The latest online scam which flooded many Facebook accounts last week was directed to a special group of entrepreneurs – those who have small bed-and-breakfast facilities outside of Metro Manila. It involved a woman with many identities who inquired about the availability of a room, completed a resort’s booking form, and then sent an image of her payment for the transaction –through bank transfer or GCash.

Do not be surprised to see a bank receipt with the transaction of the alleged overpayment. (I don’t know how she has that.) Also, do not think that the alleged customer is legit after she sends copies of her passport page, or other government IDs. Since she posed as nurse (an identity she stole from a real person), she sent my daughter, who owns a bed-and-breakfast place, images of her PRC license.
After a few minutes, the woman scammer sent a message to the resort’s Facebook page. “I overpaid by a few thousand pesos!”

A series of pleas for the resort to return the alleged overpaid amount were made. From polite, the messages turned into pleadings after the bed-and-breakfast place owners replied that after checking with their bank account, they did not find the reported amount deposited. The scammer said her child in the hospital needed a medical procedure and that alleged overpaid amount would pay for that. Or, of another bill waiting to be paid. The reasons are as varied as a hotel breakfast buffet. (Several have shared that they were victimized by the same woman.)

After a few minutes, the courteous client turned into a bully. She threw insults and threats. It only stopped when the resort staff finally returned the alleged overpayment through GCash.

But if the staff continued to stand on management policy to wait for the alleged payment to be reflected in its bank account, she blocked the person’s account. (My daughter kept repeating that her bank account did not reflect the alleged payment. When the scammer felt that she had hit a smarter person, she blocked my daughter and closed her Facebook account.)

Here's an interesting twist to the scammer’s activity last week. An owner of a bed-and-breakfast engaged the scammer in pages of messages, agreeing to return the alleged overpaid amount. First, he said he wanted to give her the money face-to-face. She said she lived far away.

So, he agreed to deposit cash to the scammer’s GCash account at a 7-11 store, sending her the photo of the store when he got there. The scammer, now irritated, said she did not get the amount in her GCash account. The man said he will try again. The woman, still not seeing the transaction credited, got upset.
To end the “transaction,” the owner sent this message: “Since yesterday, I knew you were a scammer!” (He shared the exchange of messages in social media.)

I could almost hear the cheers of the other small resort owners, a few of them who had already been scammed.

We need people like that brave owner who took time to shame a scammer, even if that did not get her punished.

Be warned! That scammer is still out there. I’m sure her next target will be small online entrepreneurs. Perhaps out of goodwill one – or two or three – of them will “return” an alleged overpayment which a customer claims to have made for a product purchase.

Be careful! The customer is not always right.