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Advice to Filipinos and others around the world who feel they might be being scammed. 

Firstly, I welcome this opportunity in sharing my advice and experience of being on social media and how to surf safely. I am most grateful to those who have shared this and posted it for allowing me to warn Filipinos to take care when online. 

As a bit of background, I have been on Facebook probably for around 14 years and as such, I have seen how Facebook has developed into a fantastic resource for people to connect with their friends and relatives globally. 

With tools such as Facebook live, messenger, and photo albums, as well as all the chat groups, forums, and helpful groups which have been set up to help us all keep updated, #Facebook is a valuable tool that many are grateful for. 

But, with this, comes a downside, whenever you have an application which connects people and genuinely benefits society, you will always have people try to exploit that. Sadly, there are individuals, as well as criminal gangs who use applications such as Facebook and especially groups on Facebook to extract hard-earned money from innocent individuals through fraud, romance scams, fake job opportunities, and visa scams. 

Sadly, a very popular and some would say easy target, are those individuals who are trying to better their lives abroad and escape poverty and hardship. When you are desperate, sometimes, you don’t think rationally, you let your guard down and cling on to the slightest hope that you could have found a way of making your life just a bit better through either forming an online romance or even applying for a job overseas to try to better your life. 

Whilst I fully understand and appreciate your intentions, I must caution you, that there are many individuals online who will try to trick you into parting with your hard-earned cash and offer nothing in return, except for a few romantic, often scripted words and buckets full of false hope. 

How does it work? 

It’s very easy to set up a fake profile sadly, online. Of course, all credit to Facebook, they are doing their best to combat this, but there tricksters and thieves are very clever. 

The scammer would usually identify a Facebook account online or a profile which is open and public, the scammer would then usually steal the photos from that profile. They like profiles of maybe western-looking men, well dressed, in a variety of different poses, maybe with family, walking the dog, driving, walking, on the beach, etc, this way they can play out a fake relationship with their chosen victim/victims (They usually have multiple victims on the go at the same time). 

With this collection of photos, they would make up a fake name, for example, John Smith, this is normally very far removed from their actual name. 

They would then set up a fake email address or even hack into the account of some unsuspecting individual and start the scam. 

They often post on romance apps and various, guy meets lady websites. Then the scam begins, they tell you that they are looking for love and romance. They then start to spam you, often on WhatsApp or chat or whatever app they ask you to contact them on. 

They normally operate in shifts, so often, when you think you are talking to John Smith, you may find that you are actually talking to a member of a criminal gang, somewhere in The Gambia, Accra or in Eastern Europe or in a hotbed where there may be scammers operating. 

Of course, there are scammers in many countries, but by pointing out some obvious ones might ring alarm bells if you are asked to send money by Western Union to certain countries. 

As some of these areas have very strong religious beliefs and many are God-fearing, check the language they use, if they call you dear or tell you that you will trust in God or are called blessing or have a similar name, you know immediately that you are being scammed. They will usually then tell you that they want to spend the rest of their lives with you, as long as you will pay their airfare or you have given them money to pay their hospital bills, etc. 

There are also so many fake job opportunities online if you are offered any job that is not on the UK government skills occupation shortage list (google it) then you are being scammed. As much as I would love for Filipino carers, nannies, chefs, drivers, and factory workers to be able to come to the UK for work, it’s absolutely impossible. 

So anyone asking for ANY money whatsoever in the process of you applying for any of these imaginary jobs is an absolute scammer. Please advise your relatives back home to be very careful. ANY visa processing fees, legal costs, processing costs, when if they offer to pay half of the fees, is still a scam and your friends or relatives are simply throwing hard-earned money down the toilet. Most likely, they would ask the sender to send the illicitly gained wealth from your relatives by Western Union or Moneygram or similar to somewhere in West Africa. 

You will also find these visa applications, job specs, etc, look totally fake and are littered with spelling mistakes. You have been warned, dear friends!!!

Please feel free to look me up on social media if you want me to check over any such fake opportunities, I would be more than happy to help out where I can. Just search for ‘Malcolm Conlan’ on Facebook, until next time, Salamat po.

(Finally, I know Facebook is going to massive lengths to combat these frauds, but sadly these fake accounts are being set up every few seconds, so please bear with them, thanks. Remember to report any profiles you know are fake.  Thanks).

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