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CYBERCOPS from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) on Tuesday afternoon arrested a female college student for ‘identity theft’ in Quezon City where she posed as either celebrity Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan or her children to extort money from the friends and supporters of the Pangilinan family, PNP-ACG director, Senior Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar announced today.

Eleazar said that Myca Acobo Aranda, a resident of Barangay Bagbag, Novaliches, Quezon City studying at the Kings College of the Philippines was placed under arrest after she wirthdrew cash sent to Smart Padala by friends of Laxa-Pangilinan.

The latest ‘identity theft’ incident prompted anew Eleazar to renew his call on the public to take all necessary precautions to avoid being victimized by ‘identity thieves’ who can easily siphon off hard-earned savings of their targets thru fraudulent bank and online transactions.

According to Eleazar, they discovered that four years ago, the suspect, a native of Western Buyagan, La Trinidad, Benguet created fake Facebook accounts using the names, pictures and personal circumstances of Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan and her four children.

Using the individual fake accounts of Laxa-Pangilinan and her children, the suspect communicated with friends and relatives of the celebrity endorser and asked them to donate money for her outreach program.

According to Maricel’s husband Anthony Pangilinan, a Facebook user with profile name Suzette was asked by the suspect to donate P5,000 to their daughters’ outreach program in Cordillera Region.

Ms. Suzette was convinced by the suspect to send the money to ‘Myca Aranda’ thru LBC money remittance.

Eleazar also said that some friends and relatives of the Pangilinan couple also informed the two that the same Facebook user solicited money from them using Facebook messenger. He said that they found out that the suspect was using two (2) Globe prepaid SIM card numbers to demand money from friends and relatives of Maricel supposedly for her different outreach programs.

One of their relatives received a text message on June 6, 2016 from the same number, he said. The text sender identified herself as a nanny of a son of the Pangilinan and began asking money for the boy. The relative had the presence of mind to inform Maricel of the message she received.

Eleazar said that when they received the complaint of Anthony Pangilinan, he immediately tasked teams to handle the case. The team were composed of investigation, legal, technical, and operation.

He said that the arrest was made with the collaboration of the victims, the Smart Padala agents, and other PNP units. A PNP-ACG team led by Supt. Jay Guillermo arrested the suspect during the entrapment operation

Eleazar said that PNP-ACG investigators found out that the suspect is an Information Technology (IT) student who has the technical expertise to hide her identity and delete digital evidence on her gadgets. However, he said that the PNP-ACG has the capability to recover deleted files, photographs, and audio of computers and cellular phones.

“The electronic gadgets that we are using have digital fingerprints that were imbedded to all gadgets and these digital fingerprints will be seen on the gadgets that we are communicating online”, said Eleazar.

The suspect will be charged for violation of section 4b3 (Identity Theft) of Republic Act 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), Section 4a (Child Abuse) of Republic Act 7610, and Article 315 (Swinding/Estafa) of the Revised Penal Code in relation to section 6 of RA 10175.

Eleazar also thanked the Pangilinan family for showing full trust and confidence to their office when they surfaced to file a complaint against the suspect.

In the advent of internet technology, he again asked parents to have more time in communication with their children particularly minors to prevent them from failing victims to internet predators.

“We are encouraging parents and children to report to the PNP-ACG all Internet or computer crimes. We also assure them that all information they will provide us will be treated with utmost confidentiality,” he said.

Eleazar also encouraged telephone companies to fully support Philippine law enforcement agencies tasked to eradicate criminals using prepaid SIM.

He said that at present, there is also a need for Congress to approve a pending bill on the mandatory registration of prepaid SIM cards to easily identify their users who are involved in different criminal activities particularly thru the internet.

Eleazar called on the citizenry to follow tips suggested by banks to avoid identity theft.

These tips include improved security precautions by using strong email passwords and changing them regularly and refraining from opening unknown emails and attachments which may contain malware.

Other bank safety tips include the following:

# Install an anti-virus program and firewall on computers and update the software as needed.

# Keep personal info off social media. Be careful with posting anything on social media which could provide info on location and accessibility.

# Keep your credit card and its details always safe.

# Be careful in giving info on web purchases.

# Do not surf the web while accessing online banking accounts. Ensure that only your online banking site is open.

# Do not engage in sensitive transactions online.

# Monitor online account activities.

# Separate passwords for online banking and non-banking accounts.

# Subscribe to text and email notifications and alerts from your financial services institutions.

# Cooperate with the banks on the update adjustments to improve online security and customer identification and verification processes.