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Filipina conduits blamed for FDHs falling prey to money launderers

04 August 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Some of the ATM cards belonging to FDHs that police seized from the syndicate

Filipina partners of foreign scammers are preying on the gullibility of domestic helpers from their own country to hand over their bank accounts and ATM cards in exchange for cash, according to an officer of the Consulate.

Consul Paulo Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section, said it should be these Filipina collaborators of the scam operators who should be made to pay for dragging their unsuspecting compatriots into trouble.

The ATN head confirmed that four Filipina domestic workers who had fallen for the scammers’ ruse reported to the Consulate last Sunday after police arrested them in a crackdown on a romance and money laundering scam said to be led by a Nigerian.


The operation, codenamed “Morningray,” netted 29 people who were allegedly behind a $27 million romance and phone scams that victimized 20 local women and two firms.

Police said 24 of those held were foreign domestic helpers, 23 Filipinas and one Indonesian. The others were a Nigerian suspected to be the ringleader, two Filipinas and another Nigerian who were described as core members of the syndicate.

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Saret said the ATN had received a list of the 24 helpers who were arrested in the operation, but only four so far have come forward to seek help.

Consul Saret tells the arrested FDHs to tell police the truth so they would be cleared

“We advised the workers to cooperate with the police and tell the truth so that, in the end, they would be cleared, like those who were arrested last time,” Saret said.

He was referring to an earlier group of Filipina helpers who were nabbed by police after their bank accounts were found to have been used to move money obtained illegally.


But he expressed regret that despite several warnings issued by the Consulate against OFWs handing over their ATM cards to the scammers, many are still falling for the promised rewards.

A conversation thread shared by a recruited FDH with a workers’ support group shows how the syndicate’s runners lure unwitting helpers into the ATM-for-cash trap.

One of the Filipina recruiters who gave her name as Sheena is shown to initially ask a targeted helper if she has an ATM account with either Bank of China, HSBC or Hang Seng Bank. Sheena suggests that the worker open an account if she hasn’t got one.


If the worker has an existing ATM bank account, Sheena encourages the target to deposit money to keep it active and start earning 2% commission.

"Deposit your money and his (investor’s) money in your ATM account to withdraw 2% commission,” she entices the worker, saying that she opened her own account a year ago and, so far, the return has been good.

Sheena tells the worker that foreigners who invest in Hong Kong need an account where they can deposit the money that they earn.

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“I’ve already tried. You can share (earn) sometimes $1,000 per week. With an HSBC account, $3,000-4,000 in two weeks,” she adds.

When the reluctant worker tells Sheena that she’s been warned that her bank account might be used to launder money, the recruiter tells her not to worry because 7 out of 10 Filipinos in HK are involved in the scheme.

“It’s safe for me because I’ve been letting them in for a year now. And they say 70% of Filipinos here, not 50%, have joined this scheme,” Sheena says.

The worker succumbed to Sheena’s prodding in the end. She is one of the Filipinas who are now seeking help from the Consulate to resolve their problem.

The Hong Kong Police said deception cases increased 7% from 8,129 cases to 8,699 in the first half of the year. That’s 570 more cases in that period alone.

The jump was mainly driven by a 91.6% upsurge in romance scams, from 429 to 822 cases. Losses from this type of scam jumped 1.6-fold to more than over $288 million. 

Those behind such scams woo an unsuspecting victim, usually a woman, and then promise her expensive gifts for which she first has to pay tax duties, delivery fee, or any such excuses.

The police said victims often realize they had been deceived after a substantial period of time, incurring relatively significant losses.

Telephone deception appears to have fallen to disuse comparatively, largely because of an intensified crackdown by police. There was a drop of 137 cases in the first half of the year, or 217% from 512 cases. However, the amount lost has doubled.

Police said that for the same period, the “Anti-Scam Helpline” of the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre prevented people in more than 280 cases from wiring a total of $600 million to fraudsters.


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