THE Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) today renewed its appeal to the public to be wary of the number 1 cybercrime perpetrators in the country: the so-called online scammers.

PNP ACG director, Senior Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said that from January to May this year alone, they have investigated 178 cases of online scam making it the no. 1 Internet fraud in The Philippines.

Common online scams in the country includes telemarketing fraud, identity theft, advance fee schemes, investment-related scams like the so-called Ponzi Scheme and pyramiding, credit card fraud, business fraud and non-delivery of merchandise.

Targets of these scams include senior citizens, housewives, young students and even professionals.

Eleazar said that last Wednesday, PNP-ACG Cybercops arrested Dianne Austria, a 26-year old architectural graduate-turned interior designer in her residence in Pandacan, Manila for not paying for the products she bought online.

The suspect will be charged for 14 counts of violation of Article 315 or swindling/estafa under the Revised Penal Code.

The arrest was made following a complaint from Mrs. Mary HanezelKoh, a businesswoman selling designer clothes, cosmetics and other beauty accessories online.  The complainant’s business is simple: she will ask her online customers to deposit their payment to her bank account and post the bank receipt on Facebook before delivering the product on a given time.

Eleazar said their investigation showed that the suspect and Koh have been doing business thru Facebook and Instagram since December 2015.

Eleazar said that the complainant and the suspect became friends due to their continuous online conversation and order and delivery of products online. However, he said that the businesswoman sought their assistance when she discovered that the deposit slips posted by the suspect on her Facebook account were not credited to her bank account.

An entrapment operation conducted by a team of PNP-ACG operatives led by Chief Inspector Anthony Landig resulted in the arrest of Austria after she presented her passport as a proof of identity to an undercover officer who delivered the products she ordered again from Koh. The suspect had just signed the delivery receipt presented by the poseur when the arrest was made.

The suspect is now being held at the PNP-ACG headquarters in Camp Crame pending the preliminary investigation of her case by the Department of Justice.

The incident prompted Eleazar to ask the public to take all necessary precautions to prevent falling prey to online scammers. He also emphasized that as always, the exchange of money and products must be personal to ensure that the transaction is legitimate.

“There is always fraud when you are giving and receiving the products without knowing or seeing the person,” the PNP-ACG director said.

Eleazar said that the public must check all information being given by the buyer or the seller. “We should always be cautious when dealing with individuals we don’t personally know and dealing with them only thru online,” he said.