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Latest victim of online iPhone scam loses $3k

12 November 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The scammers used the logo and a real store of the famous US electronics store, Best Buy

A mother eager to give her daughter a mobile phone on her birthday fell for a “buy two-get one free” iPhone 7 offer online on Nov 10 and ended up losing $3,100 to a con.

Ma. Nova Paciente, a domestic helper, sought help on how to recover her money and how to trace the scammer shortly after realizing she had been duped.

Her story echoes similar scams involving Apple’s iconic iPhone that netted several victims in the past.

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Paciente said she saw the online advertisement on Facebook of a special offer of iPhone 7 for just $1,300 on Nov 7. But when she clicked the ad, it led her to a juicier 2+1 offer. For just $2,600 for three phones, who won’t be tempted to buy?

The deal was purportedly offered by the “Original Best Buy istore Mobile,” which the vendor claimed was a partner of Apple Inc to market its products in Hong Kong. The fake online store used the actual logo of Best Buy electronic store in the United States in an obvious ploy to deceive.  

Paciente was a cautious buyer, as indicated by the many questions she raised during an exchange of messages with the nameless seller, before she finally decided to part with her money.

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She went as far as warning the vendor her employer was a police officer so, “don’t scam me.”

To assure her the transaction was genuine, the seller posted on the store’s supposed Facebook page photos of a masked Filipino man and a mask-less woman showing off the iPhone 7s that the vendor supposedly delivered to them in Central.

Paciente was shown these pictures of a supposedly happy customer

The victim said the photos looked so convincing she was hooked.

When Paciente asked how she could pay for her order, the vendor told her to buy App Store and iTune cards at 7-11 for the amount they agreed upon. At the last minute, the vendor told her to add $500 for tax, so $3,100 in all.

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After buying the card/s in the corresponding amount, she was asked to scratch the back to show the dedicated number code, plus the receipt from 7-11 “for verification and confirmation.” This would have allowed the scammer to claim the payment as his/her own.

The vendor then instructed Paciente to send front and back photos of her Hong Kong ID card, saying the company wanted to ascertain the identity of the buyer.

That was a neat trick that would have further compromised the victim as in previous scams of this kind, HK ID cards were used by the people behind the syndicate to introduce themselves and allay suspicions of their intended prey.

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After making the payment as agreed, Paciente agreed to meet the unseen seller at the LRT stop in Tai Tong, Yuen Long, at 1pm Tuesday.

At 12:06 pm that day, after Paciente sent photos of her HKID card, the seller texted, “Alright, ma’am, I’m on my way.” That was the last message she got from the other end of the line.

When Paciente arrived at the meeting place shortly after 1pm, she immediately sent a text message to the seller asking where he/she was, but received no reply. She sent several more messages, warning of making a complaint, but never got a reply.

At 2:23pm, realizing that she had been conned, Paciente sent a one-word message to the seller: “Scammer.”

Paciente said she would report to the police this Sunday and show them all her evidence.

Similar sob stories about OFWs victims of iPhone 7 online scams abound on Facebook pages of workers’ groups such as DWC Help Group. The supposed online sites used by scammers  come in various names, too, indicating they could be new operators out to make a fast buck, or old ones who changed their names after their scam was exposed.

As early as Jan 12 this year, DWC member Lhyn Alama Crusis posted a warning against another online iPhone seller calling itself “Himeji Apple Store”.

She said a friend of hers ordered an iPhone 11 handset for $5,000 and paid for it using Google Play cards. When the payment was done, the friend’s order didn’t arrive. The scam site does not appear on Google now.

Another victim, Dayen Mayordomo, said she lost $1,400 in another iPhone online scam.

On Nov 19 last year, another helper named Lhyn Pey-ag Yumang warned about a similar iPhone scam in which she and a friend were conned by an online vendor with the same modus as Paciente’s scammer.

Yumang said the scammer even used her friend’s HK ID card to lure other people to cough up money to pay for the inexistent iphones.

She named the online site used by the scammer as “iphone for you.” As in Paciente’s case, the seller offered rock-bottom prices for various iPhone editions starting from iPhone 6 Plus 128GB at $700 and iPhone 7 Plus 256GB at $1,000, to the top of the line iPhone sxmax 256GB at just $3,000.

Yumang backed up her allegation with photos of the App Store cards and 7-11 receipts of card top-ups when she paid for her would-be iPhone 7 that was never delivered.

“Huwag po kayong maniwala sa mga website na online seller ng iPhone gamit ang Google Play or App Store Itunes na tina-top up sa 7-11 tapos papa-send lang yong receipt. Scammer po ang mga iyon,” she warned.

The same story was relayed to The SUN by another Filipino worker who also sent two HK ID cards used by the sellers to show their purported sincerity to their victim. One belonged to a permanent resident, and the other, to a domestic worker, as indicated by the letters used in the identity cards.

Reacting to their stories, at least one fellow FDW said the obvious fact: “Saan kayo nakakita ng brand-new iPhone na mura? Kahit nga mga second-hand mahal pa rin, plus ang payment method (nakakaduda).”

She added, “Gusto (mo) ng mura pero mapapamura ka kasi na-scam kayo.”

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