However, the last few days, we've been faced with the worst of mankind: internet scammers. They are preying on the friends and family who are missing loved ones here in the Philippines. It's absolutely despicable that people would try to scam money off of panicked and distraught family members, but all we can do is try to spread a word of caution, and support each other as a community.
BE CAREFUL! Scammers will see that you are posting about missing people via blog comments or social media, and then reply or send you an email or message. There are many forms of this scam but what's consistent is they'll say that they've located your missing loved one but they're in a precarious medical state, or stranded without a passport, etc.. Of course they are willing to help if you'll just wire them a sum of money, which they'll use to airlift them out, buy medicine, a new passport, etc.
I understand it's easy to fall for these scammers as we're all over-stressed, emotional, and over-tired, but here are some ways to weed out a genuine offer of help and reliable information from a scam.
-Ask for details about the loved one - full name, the street their grew up on, etc.
-Ask what they are wearing, if they have any tattoos, distinguishing marks, etc.
-Ask them to take a photo with the person and email it.
-Ask for details of where they are, where they were found, etc. Most likely when you ask more and more questions, the scammers will realize you are not an easy target and move on to the next potential victim, or give you false info, revealing their true nature.
-Register the comment with the US embassy, police, aid organizations, etc.
-Reach out for friends, coworkers, their hotel, etc. to verify if the information is accurate.
-Never give sensitive financial information about yourself until you are absolutely sure of verification.
-Don't give up pin codes, bank account information, passport numbers, etc. about any missing loved ones.
Here is an example of a scammer who went "fishing" amongst comments about missing people in the Philippines: