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PCG asked to mediate in P1-M ‘double-your-money scam'

Posted on 19 September 2020 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

 

The Facebook cover photo for the group behind the 'double your money' scam

The Consulate has been asked to settle a case involving an estimated Php1million allegedly fleeced by a Filipina domestic helper from people based mainly in Hong Kong, who were lured by her promise of doubling or even tripling their money in a few days.

At least 22 complainants with claims totaling more than Php600,000 have sought the help of the Consulate through The SUN, in getting their money back from Ailyn C., who reportedly told them she  was into investments and had a string of profitable businesses back in the Philippines.

According to their leader, the money involved should be no less than Php1million, as there were around 60 of them who had been lured into A.C.’s investment scam, which had been set up like a pyramiding network.

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Apparently sensing she was in big trouble, and professing to be a victim herself, A.C. also reached out to The SUN, and promised to return all the money being claimed from her salary as a domestic helper.

A.C. said she had been disowned by her family who were all exposed on social media from the bashings made by her investors, and she needed to work in peace so she could pay them all back.

But she insisted it was a scheme gone awry because her investors did not wait for the right time to claim their earnings. 

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Originally, it was supposed to be an “Invest, Wait, Earn” (I.W.E) scheme and she said she was still trying to set up a “source” for the payback, but the investors demanded she paid them back fast, so it collapsed. 

She and the complainants are set to meet at the Consulate this Sunday, Sept 20, so they could work out a repayment deal.

One of the Facebook posts set up to lure more 'investors' into the scam

According to most complainants, they were promised a 100% return on their “investments” after 10-14 days, while a Filipino working in the United Arab Emirates said he was told he could triple his money in 15 days.

Asked why they fell for the stupendous offer, they said A.C. was very convincing in her approach, even sending them copies of her Hong Kong ID and passport as proof she was not out to con them.

The group’s leader, M.C., said the sweet-talking A.C. had told them she would help them all get rich like her. A.C. reportedly said she was in a very profitable online investment herself, and had various businesses in the Philippines, including a water refilling station, an air ticketing and remittance companies.


She also listed in her profile that her husband was a seafarer, which made her investors think she was indeed loaded.

What many chose to ignore was why A.C. still worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong when she should have been running all her businesses in the Philippines which she claimed were all turning in a good profit.

It did not occur to them, either, to check if A.C.C. was a registered investment company, and was making such incredible profit as to give back the outlandish interest promised them.

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The biggest claim came from M.M., another UAE-based OFW who said in a handwritten statement that she had “paid in” a total of Php236,300 in ACC Investment between Jul 25 and Aug. 8 this year.

M.M. says the P236,300 listed in her claim includes money from other people 

M.M. said the money was partly her own, and partly collected from other people she had enticed to join the apparent scam.

In Hong Kong, the biggest claimant is M.C., who said she had put in a total of Php112,000 belonging to herself and her husband. A big chunk of the money was paid to ACC Investment in three installments, while Php7,000 was paid to her “team” she collected money from.

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Online chats with M.C. revealed A.C. managed to get people to send her money through conduits known as administrators. Many of her investors were family members, friends or co-workers who were identified in the scam by aliases and the money they paid separated by batches, ploys which A.C. apparently used to distance herself from them.

M.C. herself managed to encourage a co-worker R.M., to put in Php26,000 while she herself was encouraged to join the scam by her cousin, L.P., who said A.C. was her reseller in her online business.

A.C. was reportedly a good business partner who never failed to settle her obligations promptly that L.P. did not think twice about putting in her hard-earned Php30,000 in the investment scam, despite well-meaning advice from some friends.

A.C. got them all hooked also because she did have “pay-outs” for some investors, though not big enough to dent the stash she had built in less than a month of peddling her get-rich-quick ploy.

She must have also been such a hypnotic seller that even after she disappeared with their money, some of her victims still believe she really has profitable businesses that could help her pay back all that she owes.

But on hindsight, M.C. thinks A.C. could also have been a victim of her own greed, as she had apparently put in and lost some of the money she had collected from them in other, similar online scams.

M.C. is calling on other people who may have been tricked into dealing with ACC Investments to join them in filing a complaint with the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section.

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Health officials warn, fourth wave of Covid-19 infections could be most severe

Posted on 18 September 2020 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

Dr Chan says a new wave has always been more serious than the previous one

Hong Kong health officials say they expect a fourth wave of coronavirus outbreak during the winter, and that it could be more serious than the third wave which peaked two months ago.

The alert was issued by Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Sophia Chan during a press conference earlier today, Sept 19, to give an update on the local coronavirus situation, and the government’s latest actions to combat the contagion.

“It’s expected that the fourth outbreak may happen in winter. The situation may be more serious than the third wave,” she said.

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Dr Chan said two factors indicate that Hong Kong is facing an even worse outbreak. First, the fact that the second wave was worse than the first, and the third, worse than the second. This could mean that if a fourth wave does occur, it could only be worse than the third, which continues to affect the city.

The second reason, according to her, is that the virus keeps mutating, with the later mutations worse than previous ones.

This is why the government is not letting its guard down, despite a drastic drop in the number of new infections, which in early to mid-July went up to more than 100 each day.

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She made the statement as three new cases of Covid-19 were reported today, two of which were linked to previous infections, and the third an imported case in the United Kingdom, which brought the city’s total to 4,996.

Chan also disclosed that the government has set aside $8.4 billion to procure vaccines for twice as many as Hong Kong’s total population.

"Procuring two times of our population would provide some safety net, so that if one of the vaccines is not working out, we would still have a vaccine enough for the people in Hong Kong," she said.

On top of this, Hong Kong has joined the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility that aims to buy and distribute Covid-19 vaccine to practically all countries around the globe.


Chan says the mass testing helped equip the government against a more severe outbreak

But until the vaccine is acquired, Chan said the government is pressing full steam ahead to prepare for another outbreak.

“We have to enhance our ability to cope with the disease because as I said, the next stage could be more serious than the third,” she said.

Such preparation includes maintaining cross-border restrictions, given that the global situation is deteriorating, according to her.

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She cited statistics showing that from 100,000 daily new cases in May, the figure rose to between 160,000 and 180,000 in June; then went up further to 220,000 in July.

Chan said the number of countries deemed high-risk could be extended, along with the strict pre-boarding requirements imposed on all travelers coming from these places.

Another step is to continue the targeted testing of people deemed vulnerable, including staff at care homes and restaurants, workers in wet markets and public transport, as well as those in “essential facilities” like slaughterhouses and the container terminal.

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While the tests will remain free and voluntary, the health chief said they “strongly encourage” those in the targeted sectors to take part.

Contract tracing is also being enhanced with the development of an IT platform that will make the current system more efficient. Along with this, more quarantine and isolation facilities will be built to meet any eventuality.

After the universal community testing, Chan said Hong Kong’s capacity to process tests has been ramped up, so that health facilities can now conduct up to 7,000 tests per day.

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DH accused of stealing $100k ring denied bail

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

 

Narcelles's bail application failed after her guarantor failed to show up in court

A Filipina maid accused of stealing a tourmaline ring reportedly worth $100,000 from her employer in Stanley failed today in her bid to gain temporary liberty in Eastern Court when the magistrate rejected her bail application.

Defendant L.V. Narcelles, 36, offered through her lawyer $5,000 bail money for her temporary release from custody, and said she had a friend who was willing to put up a guaranty.

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Magistrate Bina Chainrai turned down the bail application after the friend did not show up in court. But the magistrate told the helper she could go to the Court of First Instance to pursue her application.

Narcelles was charged on Sept 9 in the same court for the alleged theft of the ring, but no plea was taken. She is due to return to court on Oct 23.

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The prosecution said the ring that belonged to Chua Eh-fong went missing in  the employer’s house at Regalia Bay in Stanley, between Aug 27 and Sept 9.

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The employer reported the case to police on Sept 9 after allegedly finding the ring during a search of the defendant’s luggage. - Vir B. Lumicao

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Helper charged for alleged theft of $5,000 cash left in ATM

Posted on No comments

 by Vir B. Lumicao

 

The defendant allegedly took $5k left behind by another customer in a HSBC ATM in Aberdeen 

A 49-year-old domestic helper has been charged with theft for allegedly taking $5,000 cash that was left by its owner in an ATM booth at a shopping center in Aberdeen, Island South, in late December last year.

The defendant, D.J. Ellarda, a helper at Kam Fung Building in Aberdeen appeared before Magistrate Bina Chainrai on Sept 16, but was not asked to enter a plea.

Her bail was extended until the next hearing of the case on Oct 23.

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According to the charge, the defendant went on Dec 23, 2019, to an ATM machine at a Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank branch on the ground floor of Aberdeen Centre to withdraw cash.

Once there, she allegedly found and took a wad of cash in the ATM’s money dispenser left accidentally by its owner, Lo Oi-lin Irene, who had just withdrawn the amount.


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When Lo returned to the machine, her money was gone and she reported to the bank, the prosecution said. The offense was reported to the police, who reviewed the machine’s CCTV footage.

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It’s not indicated when Ellarda was arrested. 

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Save up & stay away from loans, veteran OFWs advise

Posted on 17 September 2020 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

 

George (foreground) has spent much of his time with Card HK, giving financial lessons to fellow OFWs

If medals were to be awarded to overseas Filipino workers who have made their stay abroad exemplary, two veterans from Hong Kong would be among the first to get one.

One of them is George Manalansan, who is set to go home for good next month, after 38 long years of working abroad, the last 26 years of which he spent working as a family driver in Hong Kong.

The other is Ching Baltazar, who resettled back in the Philippines two years ago, after spending 32 years working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

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What sets these two apart from their fellow OFWs, especially in Hong Kong, is how they have managed to avoid the debt trap, which, given the ease with which FDHs here are able to take out loans several times their monthly salary, makes this indeed a feat.

Not only that. Both have managed to save a substantial part of their monthly salary not only to improve the lives of their family members, but also to have a nest egg after their retirement.

The two disclosed their formula for success during a live interview with The SUN last night, Sept 16.

Jo (5th from left) and her JC Catering Services team with TV personality Pauleen Luna-Sotto

They were joined by Jo Campos, another Hong Kong veteran who went back home in late 2017, also after 32 years of being an OFW.

Although she was frank in admitting that once during her long stay in the city, she did get enmeshed in debt, Jo said she wised up in time, and vowed never to go that way again.

While she did not save up as much as she could have, given her long stay in Hong Kong, Jo, who is single like Ching, has no regrets. She says she decided to indulge herself while working hard, and in the process, built happy memories with friends that she treasures to this day.

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For George, going home for good had been in the cards for sometime. He set Sept 5 this year as the date when he would return to his family in Pampanga, as that would have been his last day at work.

But in November last year, he suffered a slipped disc while carrying a heavy sofa, and amid the pain from that experience, he started thinking he did not want to go home incapacitated and unable to enjoy retirement.

He told his employers he wanted to go home, but fate intervened when the domestic helper he was working with had to leave home for an emergency.


His employers prevailed upon him to stay until February, but the coronavirus outbreak happened, so he decided to stay a bit longer. He has agreed to stay on for another month after his contract ended, but will not agree to any more extension.

Apart from his desire to reunite with his wife and three children, George says he also wants to give himself a new leash on life, or tap whatever other talents he may have, after being an OFW for more than half his life.

Asked how much he thought an OFW should save before deciding to go home for good, George said it varies from person to person because of their varying needs. But ideally, he said one should have been able to buy a house, sent his children to school, and saved up enough money to start a business, and live on.

“Kung pang tong-its lang naman, ok na,” he says jokingly.

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In truth, he has prepared exceedingly well for his retirement. He and his wife, who also used to work as an OFW in Hong Kong, already have their own house in Pampanga, and his two eldest children have finished school, and are now both engineers. His youngest is also about to graduate from college.

What’s more, he has put away enough money to start his dream construction business with his children. And even if this venture does not yield immediate profit, George does not have much to worry about as he has invested in SSS, Pag-IBIG Fund, and a life insurance.

Ching also had her mind set on her retirement goals from the time she came to work as an OFW. Asked how she managed to stay away from the lure of loans, Ching put it simply as: “Kung noong nagtatrabaho ako sa Pilipinas na kakarampot ang suweldo ay napagkakasya ko, bakit kailangan kong mangutang noong mas malaki na ang kita ko?’

With her future firmly secured, Ching now finds joy showing off her plump produce

But Ching exceeded the expectations of even the best financial planners when she decided to put away 30% of her monthly salary in preparation for her retirement. Due to her thrifty and unpretentious nature, Ching who is one of a few "Bagong Bayani" awardees in Hong Kong, even managed to send a few nieces to school from what was left of her salary each month.

Thus, just a few years after working in Hong Kong, she managed to invest in an apartment from where she now draws much of her spending money. She has also bought a house in her hometown in Cagayan, and in Laguna where she now lives.

She decided to retire when her last contract coincidentally ended on her 65th birthday in February 2018, which meant she was by law, automatically entitled to long service pay.

Ching and George both went on to join Card Hong Kong Foundation where they eventually became trainors in financial literacy. But the training that they got and eventually shared with fellow OFWs just fine-tuned what they had been practicing all along.

For Jo, Hong Kong is still a home away from home, a place where she would want to keep going back to. “I miss Hong Kong,” was among the first things she blurted out during the interview.

But she is herself settled back in the Philippines, having set up a successful catering business with her chef-niece, which counts many famous movie stars as its clients - until the coronavirus took hold.

In an instant, Jo, who just turned 60 years old, was relegated to spending much of her time indoors, cooking meals for her extended family and chatting with friends online.

But if there was one thing that her OFW experience had taught her, it was resilience, and Jo, like George and Ching, would always draw strength from that to make sure they indeed get to spend the rest of their lives back home, for good.  

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Moon-watching fun to be put to test by pandemic safety protocols

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By The SUN

The moon will be at biggest and brightest on Oct 1, says the HK Observatory

Moon lovers will have an extra-long weekend to watch the autumn moon this year with the National Day on Thursday, Oct 1, coinciding with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Festival traditions are, however, likely to be put to test by social distancing and other health protocols in these pandemic times, led by a no-nonsense government ban on gatherings of more than four persons in public places.

The festival falls on Thursday, but moon watching begins on the evening of Sept 30, when Hong Kong families and lovers traditionally gather in open spaces such as beaches, rooftops and elevated places to await and welcome the lunar spectacle.

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The annual festivity is celebrated with lantern exhibitions, feasting and fun. It will peak with the autumn moon on the night of Oct 1, when the moon will be at its biggest and will remain visible in the sky until the early morning of Saturday.

In pre-pandemic times, the festival was a time in Hong Kong for strengthening family bonds with mooncakes, yellow fruits, as well as wine and winter crab parties.

It was also a time for families with children to light colorful candles and walk around with gay lanterns on beaches, parks, or the Peak, as they wait for the moon to rise to its full glory.

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For lovers, it was a time to make promises to the moon in some quiet nooks; for loners, a time to just wait and wish that, next time around, they’d not be moon watching alone.

Mid-Autumn Festival was a time for partying on chartered trams or dining and cruising on Victoria Harbour for westerners and tourists.

For migrant workers, the festival was always a welcome break from backbreaking chores to get together, go hiking, visit malls, or simply loll around in their favorite haunts across Hong Kong.

Colorful and bright lanterns are hung  to celebrate what is also known as "Lantern Festival"

Now much of these are a thing of the past. Everyone must observe the strict distancing protocols, or face the possibility of a penalty. If people want to dine together, they must go in groups of four, or do it in the confines of their homes.


Migrant workers who are lucky enough to be allowed out during the holidays, must also observe distancing and be careful when dining together, as this is considered as a high-risk activity by health experts.

But the festival fun still depends much what the weather will be like at the long weekend. The Hong Kong Observatory’s forecast for the period is not yet available. But with rains having fallen daily these past few days, hopes are for clearer skies during the festival.

Giving away mooncakes is also part of the yearly tradition

To assist the public in moon watching, the Government Information Service lists the times of moonrise, transit, moonset and full moon during the festival period.

Watch out for moonrise at 5:35pm on Sept 30. It transits the local meridian at 11.31pm and sets at 5:32am the next day.

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On Oct 1, moonrise will be at 6:08pm, transit at 12 minutes past midnight on Oct 2 and moonset at 6:31am next day.

On Oct 2, the moon will rise at 6:40pm, transit at 53 minutes past midnight on Oct 3 and set at 7:10am the next day.

The government notes that at its fullest, the moon as seen from the earth is completely illuminated, it and the sun being located on the opposite sides of the planet.

offense.  

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