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Airline ticket scam dupes Pinoys in US

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

SAN JOSE – Hundreds of Filipinos wanting to buy cheap airline tickets to the Philippines fell victim to a ticket scam in the United States.

On Wednesday, the group went to the house of Lily Anne Sison-Lee in San Jose, who sells roundtrip tickets to the Philippines. They paid Sison-Lee but never received the tickets. Sison-Lee has disappeared since Thursday and has not returned calls.

Ethel Cavan, a victim of the alleged ticket scam, knocked on Sison-Lee’s home and said, “Hoy! Ibalik mo na sa amin ang pera!”

Cavan paid for 3 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines worth $750 each. She was told that she would get her flight itinerary only 3 days before the flight.

“Normally, when you buy your ticket, you immediately get it online, your e-ticket.  That was a red flag for me,” Cavan said.

Another victim, Charles De La Cruz, said he and his family bought 16 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines for a family wedding.

“Paalis na kami ngayon. Kaya lang kumuha na lang ako ng ibang ticket sa agency,” De La Cruz said.

They had no choice but to buy tickets from another agency worth 3 times more because he said Sison-Lee did not deliver. He said they spent all their pocket money.

“Pinambili ng tickets. Kaya wala nang gagastusin sa Pilipinas. Napasubo na lang yung credit cards,” said De La Cruz.

Chloe Homen acted as Sison-Lee’s middleman and is a ticket agent. She would buy tickets from Sison-Lee and then sell them to others. Homen has been in business with her for 2 years. She says Sison-Lee had always delivered.

This is the first time she failed her and Homen reported her friend to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Mayroon na nga client na-ospital dahil sa stress,” said Homen.

About 240 people who bought from Homen have not received their tickets. She owes more than $200,000 because of the scam.

“Gusto ko man ibalik ang pera nila, I don’t have the capacity to pay kasi ako I’m also a victim,” said Homen.

Irene Mayor is Homen’s sub-agent. Mayor claimed that she lost more than $100,000 by buying replacement tickets for her clients.

“It’s just money. But its hard-earned money,” said Mayor.

The group plans to file a police report against Sison-Lee. Balitang America tried to reach Sison-Lee at her home and work but she could not be reached.

Records show there may be more victims. The FBI encouraged all those who have been victimized to band together to make a stronger case against Sison-Lee.

Johnny Francisco, Director of Mango Tours, said Sison-Lee purchased tickets from their travel agency and had occasionally paid cash because she was not an authorized reseller.

“They should have dealt with a legal travel agent. In the state of California, they should be dealing with travel agents who belong to the seller of travel. I strongly advise passengers, when they buy their travel tickets, more so especially in cash, they should also get not only their receipt but their electronic ticket receipt,” Francisco advised future travelers. Balitang America

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, Scam,


Facebook accounts hacked

By: Channel NewsAsia – Saturday, December 12


SINGAPORE: Right before her eyes, Julie Chiang watched the computer screen as someone used her Facebook account — pretending to be her, asking her friend for money and claiming she had been mugged in London.

“It was surreal to watch the conversation happen right in front of me,” said Ms Chiang, who had been woken up in Singapore by her friend’s phone call on Friday morning.

“He told me he was on Facebook now, talking to ’me’, and I was saying I needed money to go home.”

The hacker even used Ms Chiang’s husband’s name, which could be found on her Facebook profile, in the conversation.

Even as the unfolding scam began to dawn on her, a second friend living in New Zealand messaged her to say she was having the same conversation.

Reports of such incidents — known as a 419 scam — though few, are on the rise among Facebook users.

Fraudulent individuals collect log—in information through phishing sites and access Facebook accounts to send inbox or chat messages or to update the person’s profile. And they claim to be stranded in a foreign country and ask friends to send money, usually through a money transfer service.

“While the total number of people who have been impacted is small, we take any threat to security seriously and are redoubling our efforts to combat the scam,” said Facebook in a blog post in September.

The scam had previously been perpetrated through emails.

But more cyber criminals are leveraging on social engineering as a means of deceiving users, said systems engineering manager Ronnie Ng from Symantec Singapore.

“Social engineering takes advantage of our natural tendency to trust one another, rather than relying solely on technological means to steal information,” he said.

Indeed, Ms Leong Su—Lin, who was chatting with “Julie” yesterday morning, said the scam seemed believable because it was a “live” conversation.

“Someone was actually responding to the questions I was asking; it wasn’t an automated thing, which is why I went along with it,” Ms Leong, 32, told MediaCorp from New Zealand.

“They were also hitting on a ’soft spot’ by saying she was hurt. I was very concerned, so although she sounded a bit strange, I thought maybe it’s because she was still traumatised.”

But something felt amiss. “I thought it was strange she was on Facebook and not at the police station or at an embassy,” she said.

Mr Ng said people need to be more aware of where they post personal information and who they allow on their social networks. In addition, online users should be careful of clicking on links from unknown senders and use up—to—date security software, he advised.

“They should also be on their guard if they receive suspicious messages from friends, such as requests for money,” he said. “Users should always double—check with their friend. When in doubt, do a search on the Internet to see if it’s a known scam.”

Thankfully for Ms Chiang’s friends, they did just that, and she has since reported the incident to Facebook. “I’ve not heard of this happening, so it’ll be good for more people to know about it,” she said.

The online conversation

(5:17:46 PM) Julie Chiang: Terence and I are stuck in London at the moment

(5:17:55 PM) Derrick Lim: are u there for a holiday?

(5:18:16 PM) Julie Chiang: Vacation

(5:18:27 PM) Julie Chiang: Got mugged at gun point last night …

(5:19:00 PM) Julie Chiang: All cash,credit card and cell were stolen off me

(5:19:11 PM) Julie Chiang: I also got injured

(5:19:19 PM) Derrick Lim: oh no ….

(5:19:45 PM) Derrick Lim: what injury?

(5:20:01 PM) Julie Chiang: Little bruises all over my neck

(5:21:45 PM) Julie Chiang: I need your help to get back home?

(5:21:57 PM) Derrick Lim: my help? ….

(5:22:38 PM) Julie Chiang: Our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now and we’re having problem settling hotel bills

(5:23:02 PM) Julie Chiang: I need you to loan me few bucks to settle the bills and get a cab to he Airport

(5:23:59 PM) Derrick Lim: ok

(5:24:42 PM) Julie Chiang: You can have it wired to my name and Location through western union ….

(5:27:27 PM) Derrick Lim: can u email me the details?

(5:27:45 PM) Julie Chiang: sure

(5:27:52 PM) Julie Chiang: Name Julie Chiang

(5:28:19 PM) Julie Chiang: Location — London, United Kingdom

(5:28:28 PM) Julie Chiang: You can try it online right now

(5:30:18 PM) Julie Chiang: Visit

(5:30:58 PM) Derrick Lim: ok

(5:31:18 PM) Julie Chiang: You will have to do it with your credit card

(5:31:22 PM) Derrick Lim: yes

— TODAY/so

Filed under: Computer Matters, OFW Corner, OFW Scam, Illegal Recruiter, Scam, Social Network, Sorsogon News Updates, What's Happening Here?,

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