1) The scam starts when you receive a message with the link wa.me. I clicked on the message and a chat box opened, as if I had started the conversation. This is possible thanks to the “click to chat” feature where the scammer could pre-populate a chat box with a message from whoever clicks on the link. The five messages I received all had the same result when I clicked on the link.
2) The cybercriminal then informed me that I could find a job by using my phone to place virtual orders. I could then get a commission for each completed virtual order. The scammer then asked me to register.
3) I clicked on the link and found out that the scam is not exclusive to the Philippines as it targets other countries as well. The drop-down menu contains five country codes: +63 for the Philippines, +91 for India, +52 for Mexico, +55 for Brazil, and +66 for Thailand. I then registered using the number of my newly purchased SIM card. Here nothing happens because you just have to register as a new account.
4) After registering, I logged into the scammer’s platform and “got” my 68 peso bonus. By checking the source of the page, I found out that the language used is zh-CN. This means that the Chinese language used is “simplified and uses mainland Chinese terms”. Coding notes are also written in what looks like Chinese characters. Also, the only response we get is “speak English” every time we try to send a message in Tagalog.
Coding Notes That Look Like Chinese Characters
5) All five scam messages I received use different UnionBank accounts to accept money and GCash for victims to send payments. The scammer then asked me to ‘top up’ my account using GCash, send the payment to the bank, and show them the screenshot of the transaction. I sent P200 as the initial top-up amount.
One of the UnionBank accounts used by scammers.
6) I was then assigned to tasks. The crooks claimed that the company helps e-commerce sites increase their rankings online, hence the need to order products.
Here is the promise that would make victims give money to scammers:
For 100 pesos, you could withdraw 188 pesos, deposit 300 pesos, and you could get 460 pesos, give them 500, and you would get 722 pesos, 1000, and 1880. The scammer assured me that I could get them. funds through my GCash in just 10 minutes. This is how easy it is to make money with their platform, he added. This is, of course, called the upfront charge scam. The crooks promise to give you money in exchange for your money sent through GCash to a UnionBank account. They might have compromised or willfully given it away by account holders for a commission, digital money mule fraud. The crooks would provide you with the P188 pesos first, but trust me, the subsequent transactions would all be for them.
7) When I tried to withdraw my P68 pesos, the signup bonus, the scammer told me I had to deposit 200 pesos again to be able to get the 68 pesos. I told him that I would be happy to invest ten thousand pesos, but I wanted to see how it worked. I told him to let me withdraw all the money I had, now 324 pesos after the 56 peso commission I received for clicking on a link titled “task”. The scammer agreed and said he would send me the 324 pesos. After a few minutes, I received the 324 pesos in my GCash, again from the UnionBank account. Because of greed, the scammer allowed me to get my money back, plus some of his that had just swindled other users.
I got my money back and more
The things i learned
The scam is not exclusive to the Philippines. The same fraudulent SMS activity also occurred in India in December 2020 and Singapore in May 2021. I agree with AFN Commissioner Mon Liboro that “an organized global union” is behind the scenes. of these SMiShing attacks against Filipino users. The crooks were not Filipinos. When I tried to send a message in Tagalog, none of the five could understand me. However, I expect this scam to evolve and soon have a local counterpart. I also agree with the AFN commissioner when he said there was no evidence that the crooks got the numbers from apps or contact tracing forms.