DOF: Watch out for investment scams amid the pandemic

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Scammers haven’t taken a break— ­even amid the pandemic — and are giving cryptocurrency a bad name. In August 2020, the Department of Finance (DOF) revealed that the name of Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was used to promote a fake cryptocurrency auto-trading platform called “Bitcoin Revolution.”

The DOF also learned that a platform called “Bitcoin Lifestyle” falsely claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte “is urging all citizens of the Philippines to learn about Bitcoin Lifestyle quickly to get involved.” These were all refuted by the DOF.

However, fraudulent schemes haven’t stopped there. Since April, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has exposed nearly 30 entities luring people to put their hard-earned money into illegal investment schemes with the promise of high returns over a short period.

Some of these cryptocurrency fraudsters employ Ponzi or pyramiding schemes that use the income from new participants to pay out returns to earlier investors. Others use internet-based, instant-messaging platforms, such as Telegram and Messenger, to target people interested in cryptocurrencies.

Citing the weak economy, the DOF urged the public to take care of their hard-earned cash and stay away from questionable investment schemes. Here are some ways on how to avoid being duped into an investment scam.

1. Be wary of red flags.

Be wary of unsolicited offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe promises of guaranteed returns when asked for a hefty sum of money. Fraudsters also often tell their victims that this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer and it will be gone tomorrow. Stay away from the pressure of sending the money right away. Reciprocity like taking you to free seminars or buying you free coffee is also a red flag.

Some recent examples of fraudulent or harmful investment schemes also make fantastic claims about their affiliation with authorities. Online scams may even invoke the names of government regulators or wealthy and influential citizens. Watch out for these signs.

2. Don’t trust easily.

Distrust and suspicion should be your default attitude when you invest. Spend some time checking out the person touting the investment. Find out if they are licensed to operate under a regulatory body and look into their actual qualifications. People can also be blinded by a “halo” effect when a scam artist comes across as likable or trustworthy. Remember that credibility can be faked.

This also applies to ads and posts you see online. According to the DOF, some of their staff have observed similar investment ploys using the names of prominent Finance and Treasury officials in other countries and Filipino celebrities in an attempt to dupe the public into falling for the scam.

3. Research before you invest.

Fend fraudsters off by doing your own research. Check out SEC’s advisories on investment scams. Here are some of them:

In “Bitcoin Revolution,” investors are promised to earn as much as $1,000 from a minimum investment of $250 within a day, a 300% return on investment per day, or a total of 9,000% per month. The SEC said the company does not have a license and flagged its ridiculous rates of return.

“CROWD1” solicits investments from the public by offering “educational packages” for a minimum of ₱6,000 and as much as ₱240,000, and promises bonuses. It claims that it generates income from online games. A person earns through referrals.

“Forsage” claims of an Ethereum (ETH) blockchain technology-based platform, which supposedly provides long-term active and passive income to investors through a crowdfunding referral system.

“RCashOnline” offers business packages, including Royale products for resale, starting at ₱18,660 for one account and going as high as ₱130,620 for seven accounts with insurance worth ₱1 million. The scheme relies heavily on recruiting members in exchange for high monetary rewards rather than on selling products.

“The Saint John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta Foundation” promises members ₱5,000 worth of grocery items every month and offers 21-year-old male agriculture students and graduates an all-expenses-paid training with $1,000 allowance in Israel for six months, in exchange for personal information. The SEC has long revoked its registration on February 3, 2003, for noncompliance with reportorial requirements.

The SEC has also identified the following groups engaged in investment-solicitation activities without the necessary licenses:

• Azenzo-Online

• Bayanihan Program of Billy Ford Andrada

• Captcha Philippines, Incorporated

• CashAB

• CashOcean

• CashAB Lending Company

• Cryptec

• CryptoInvestWith.Us

• CryptoPeso

• Fast Track

• Fil-Invest

• Friend$hip/Friend$hip Philippines and World of Captcha

• JOCALS688

• KwikPeso

• Lao Razon Trading and/or Lao Razon Marketing

• Little Cash

• MAGINVESTKA.ONLINE (MIK.O)

• Mimosa Credit Ltd

• My Gold Rev/My Gold Rev Philippines

• Sakto Online Advertising

• V2R Trades

• Won Project/Won Network/Won Foundation

• Xtreme House of Beauty Trading Corporation

• Zamoya Credit Ltd

Where to invest

The safest investments are those that are guaranteed by the government. In these uncertain times, there can be no safer investment than government bonds. They not only yield guaranteed returns while protecting the principal; they also help finance the country’s development needs.

Government bonds are a safe, secure, and patriotic way to invest. To make investing in these instruments convenient, the government has partnered with banks to open online facilities for buying bonds. Go to https://www.treasury.gov.ph/premyobonds/ to see how you can buy the latest issue of government retail bonds. Premyo bonds offer safe returns while providing you the opportunity to win prizes during quarterly draws. You may also download the mobile app Bonds.PH to purchase retail government bonds.

During these times, people can make irrational decisions driven by emotions. It is natural to get attracted to financial gain. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Protect your hard-earned money. Watch out for red flags and do some digging.

The government is also pursuing reforms to make investing in legitimate opportunities easier and simpler. The Duterte administration's proposed Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act (PIFITA) will simplify the tax regime for bonds and stocks by reducing the number of tax rates on financial transactions from 80 to 36. Once enacted, PIFITA will make it easier for everyday Filipino investors to put their money in safe and secure investment opportunities.

To learn more about how to invest safely, you may check out the investor’s education and information website of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Where to report suspicious investment

Report suspicious investment schemes to the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the SEC through e-mail at epd@sec.gov.ph or through landline at (02) 8818-6337. Under the Securities Regulation Code, those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers, or agents of fraudulent investment schemes may be held criminally liable and penalized with a maximum fine of ₱5 million or imprisonment of 21 years, or both.

Report suspicious messages to the NBI Anti-Fraud Division at (02) 8525-4093 or e-mail at afad@nbi.gov.ph. Alternatively, you may also send a message through the NBI’s website at www.nbi.gov.ph or their official Facebook account.

For suspicious online messages, report these incidents to the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) through its website at www.pnpacg.ph, through hotline number at (02) 8723-0401, or through email at acg@pnp.gov.ph.