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‘I am not a scammer,’ says face mask seller

06 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap


Indoplas face masks from the Philippines are highly sought-after in HK

One of the biggest online sellers of surgical masks from the Philippines has come out to say she is not part of any scam, a day after two fellow Filipino migrant workers named her as the supplier of some $200,000 worth of masks that were not delivered as promised.

R.F. told The SUN that a container-load of the high-grade Indoplas face masks she was supposed to distribute to buyers was “quarantined” in Manila on Feb. 14, amid a surge in local demand for them, and has remained there since.

All the buyers were duly notified of this development and given regular updates, she said.
She added she is still hoping the shipment would eventually be released, but knowing that many of the buyers were just fronting for other people, mostly local Chinese, she has begun giving back their money, even if it meant advancing some of it out her savings.

But R.F. said she is just one of two sellers contacted by fellow domestic worker, E.B., who acted as the middleman for the transaction. R.F. said she did not receive any of the payments directly, and just monitored them for her long-time supplier in the Philippines.

R.F. said it was E.B. who contacted the buyers and had them send the money to a relative’s account in the Philippines through a remittance agent in the New Territories. E.B.’s relative then sent the payment directly to R.F.’s supplier.
For example, F.B. said that of the $120,000 worth of masks ordered by M.G., another domestic worker, and coursed through E.B., less than half was sourced from her supplier.

The other order for three boxes worth $24,465 which was cited in a separate complaint filed with the Consulate by another Filipina, was not coursed through her, R.F. said. 

But as soon as she heard that M.B. had filed a complaint about the undelivered masks with the Consulate, R.F. said she immediately returned an initial $30,000 directly to the real purchaser, a local Chinese man named KY.

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She said that although no money was paid to her directly, she will to go to the Consulate this Sunday, Mar. 8, to return all the payments made to her shipper for the stuck shipment, just so she can clear her name.

She showed a list of refunds she has made to various Filipino buyers between Feb 23 and 25, totaling about $122,000, as proof that she does not intend to run away from any of them.

The returned amounts ranged between $650 to the $30,000 paid to M.G.’s buyer.

M.G. belatedly sent a message acknowledging the payment that R.F. had made to her friend and buyer and said “hindi lang po siya ang may responsibilidad nyan, marami sila. Kawawa naman yung tao, nadiin ng husto samantalang yung iba eas-easy lang.”

R.F. said some of her buyers would accompany her to the Consulate this weekend to help clear up the situation.

“Sasamahan daw po nila ako pumunta sa Consulate at willing sila mag witness na nag refund na ako kasi nadidiin daw ako and magsasalita sila about sa mga napasok nilang pera,” she said.
 
Hours of queuing for face masks have made many people in HK to source the much-coveted items online
R.F. said this was the first time her bulk orders had been put on hold. She said she had sold huge amounts of goods in the past, including face masks, and had not encountered the same problem. For this delayed shipment, she said her outstanding order was for a total of P1.3 million.

But she did acknowledge that there are many scammers around, mainly those who ask for advance payment, then block the buyers as soon as they receive the money, often by direct bank transfer or through remittance agents.

She also said she has contacts in Manila who can check shipment destinations, and so she knows when someone is lying when they say their expected delivery did not arrive on time.

R.F. said there had been a steady stream of Hong Kong customers asking for her help to acquire masks from the Philippines, especially the quality ones made by Indoplas, an established medical supplier in the country.

When her supplier first sent out masks, R.F. said the amount was as low as $40 a box, but when the demand began to surge, the price rose to a minimum of $140 per. Still, many locals consider that a steal, considering that the same quality masks sell for no less than $200 a box in many pharmacies in town - if you can find them.

Among those who have placed bulk orders with her help are groups that supply the much-needed protection for construction workers at the airport, and another who said he wanted to give them away to needy people.

As she chatted, a neighbor reportedly contacted her to ask if she could help order 5,000 boxes of masks from the Philippines, but she declined.

“Masarap po sana magbenta kung di lang bawal,” she said. “Tapos nadadamay pa kami na maayos (magbenta) sa mga nag-i scam.”

For now at least, she has been telling all would-be buyers to go directly to her supplier in the Philippines, with her just monitoring the transactions.
Her employer has been extremely kind and supportive of her, said R.F., and the least she can do to repay that is to stay clear of the mad scramble over what’s become the most desired shield against the deadly coronavirus.
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