by Marlon Magtira |

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is warning the public against so-called Internet “love scammers” targeting single men and women who are searching for love online and then extorting money from them using the name of the agency.

“We are continuously receiving reports not only here in Manila but also from our provincial collection districts. However, very seldom do we receive official complaints, just phone calls from the victims that they have been scammed. But they don’t leave information. Maybe they are not comfortable talking about their predicament due to its sensitive nature,” BOC commissioner John P. Sevilla.

The scam begins with the ‘love scammer’ introducing himself as a foreigner from either Australia, United Kingdom, or the United States getting in touch with their prospective victims online using social networking sites like Facebook, Internet chat rooms or other dating sites.

After befriending the victims online for several weeks or months they would send a message that they have sent a box containing expensive gifts like designer bags, jewelries, gadgets like laptops and smartphones via international door-to-door parcel complete with tracking number and invoice for the supposed shipment.

After several days, the victims would then receive an email, a phone call, or a text allegedly from an officer or an employee of the BOC informing them that package was held in Customs and that it would be sent to them only after they pay duties and taxes to be deposited in a designated bank account or money transfer service.

The ‘BOC official’ would even provide details of the breakdown of customs duties and taxes as proof. However, even after depositing the money, the victims would never get their packages.

“Please be advised that with regards to packages, parcels or even balikbayan boxes, the Bureau of Customs deals with the consolidator, forwarder or courier in charge of your package directly so if ever there is a problem with your packages, the BOC will not call, text or email you but will communicate with your consolidator, forwarder or courier,” says Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla.

“BOC does not also give assessments and computations of duties and taxes by email or text. These are computed and written on official BOC document that are payable only to the bureau and not through any bank or money transfer service,” Sevilla added.

“We urge the public to be more vigilant against these scams. Prior to making any payment, we advise recipients of emails purportedly sent by the Bureau of Customs to inquire first through our public assistance contact channels.” (Newsbytes.ph)