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Conmen actively targeting Filipina domestic helpers in ‘love scams’

16 January 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Beware of online boyfriends saying you would be sent a gift parcel (CUHK photo)

Scammers continue to actively target Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong on social media, as can be seen from stories shared by intended victims of so-called “love scams,” who have come out to recount their experiences.

The scams often take the form of men wooing women online, then purportedly sending them gifts for which they should pay a huge sum as “tax.”

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But there are other ploys used by scammers, including those who entice their women victims to lend their ATM cards, which are then used by the conmen for laundering money.

They also include naked chat and romance scams, which according to the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre’s latest advisories, are the most common methods used to victimize women.

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In the naked chat scam, cons befriend the victims online, then sweet-talk them into undressing or doing indecent acts in front of a webcam. The predators would then demand money from the victims, or they would post their naked pictures online.

So far, no stories of Filipinas falling prey to this modus have surfaced lately. The more common deception targeting them is still the love or romance scam, where women victims are asked to redeem gift parcels supposedly sent them for thousands of dollars.


This was the experience recently shared by “Leilani” on messenger, who said her online boyfriend who claimed to be from the mainland (but whose Facebook profile says he’s from Hong Kong) got stuck in Australia due to the pandemic.

Two days before Leilani’s birthday recently, the man asked for her full name and complete address, saying he wanted to send her a small gift. Then a day after her birthday, she got a Whatsapp message saying a parcel had been sent to her by the man from New York.

But there was a hitch. She must pay local clearance fees, import duty, overweight charges and local delivery charges totaling $21,750 to the courier service before the delivery could take place, according to the message.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Leilani said she did not comply because she had no money and besides, she started feeling suspicious.

So, ngayon nagtaka ako kung bakit need ko magbayad ng ganyan kalaki, so naisip kong scam iyon,” she said. (I was surprised why I needed to pay so much, so I thought it must be a scam).

She decided to continue chatting with the man just to ask why she had to pay such a big amount for what was supposed to be a gift.

Ang sagot niya, ganun daw talaga kasi may pera na laman yung box na mas malaki pa diyan sa ibabayad ko,” Leilani said.

(His reply was that was really the case because the box contained money that was much more than what I was supposed to pay).

She was appalled when told that there had been a lot of other scams targeting Filipinas here, including men who woo them so they could ask for their ATM cards, then use these to launder dirty money.

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Naalala ko pala, tinanong ako niyan kung may bank account ako. Sabi ko wala naman akong bank account. Sabi niya mag-open ako ng account dito para matulungan niya ako paminsan-minsan, magsi-send siya ng pera para sa mga anak ko,” said Leilani. “Buti pala di ako sumunod.”

(I just remembered that he asked me if I had a bank account. I said I didn’t have any. He said I should open an account so he could help me by sending money for my kids once in a while. It’s a good thing I did not comply).

There are also scammers who use the victim's ATM card to launder money

Stories shared by some members of Facebook group, Domestic Workers Corner, recount the same ploy, but with a twist. At least three have posted about having boyfriends who are supposedly doctors connected with big international aid agencies, but who somehow needed to be sent money due to some emergency.


The latest post was made on Wednesday, Jan 13, on DWC’s Help group by a member who said her friend was borrowing money because she needed to bail out her virtual boyfriend.

As in the other cases, the man supposedly sent a parcel to his girlfriend, but it was held by Customs and would not be released until she paid $10,000 in “clearance and other fees”. What sent the girlfriend panicking was the warning that her boyfriend would be jailed for 12 years if she didn’t pay up.

The message sender said her friend was begging to be allowed to use her name to take out a loan from the bank to pay for the man’s release. Luckily for this sender, her visa was about to run out so she had to say no.

The post was made at 3:53pm and before the day ended, it had attracted more than 1,000 comments warning the sender that the whole thing was a scam. It was, at best, an indication that the repeated warnings from police about these scams were at least hitting home.


Here are some advisories issued by the police about the other more common form of deception used on OFWs, which is the ATM or money laundering scam:


The scammers make acquaintance with victims online. Once they have gained the latter’s trust, they will ask to borrow the victims’ accounts for allegedly lawful purposes using various pretexts. In fact, the scammers are making use of the victims’ accounts to collect illicit moneys and lure the victims into withdrawing the money for them.


The act of lending one’s account to others for unlawful purposes might have constituted the offence of "Dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence" (money laundering) which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$5 million. The police appeal to the public not to open bank accounts for or lend their own accounts to others lest they would breach the law on money laundering.


  1. Don’t lend your bank accounts to others.
  2. Don’t disclose details of your bank accounts to others.
  3. Remind your relatives and friends the risk of scams.
  4. If in doubt, please call the Anti-Scam Helpline 18222 immediately. 


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