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AmericanInCebu

Suckered into a crazy, crazy, low-stakes but complex scam!!

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AmericanInCebu

I know this is a pretty harsh forum and I'm sure a lot of people will throw spitballs at me for being an idiot. But I have to relate a ridiculous, low-stakes but complicated scam that was done to me a couple weeks ago when I was in your country. (This will be a long post, as much to get it off my chest as anything else -- try to bear with me!)

Last May, I met a girl online.  From rural Bohol.  It seemed like a somewhat poor family but I don't have much experience with judging that from the background of photos.  She's very attractive and sent tons of videos and we talked for umpteen zillion messages and phone calls.  So, since I had a business trip to the Phils, I asked if she wanted to go on vacation after my meetings were done.  "Oh yes!!" She claimed to have her parents' permission, so I planned out a really nice 4-day trip.  She was insistent that I come meet her parents first, especially because it happened to be her birthday. Even though eastern Bohol is pretty remote, that seemed like a pretty fair request and the gent thing to do.  So I figured out the travel details and went out there.  She and her sister met me at the port.  So far, pretty normal.  Got a hug but not a kiss; didn't really think anything of it but maybe not the warmest greeting.  

So, we took a trike to their family's home.  Now, I am somewhat familiar with the Philippines and lower standards of living, but this was the first truly dirt, dirt poor family I ever met.  Maybe 20 people in the extended family, living in one hut with two tiny outbuildings, a rice field of maybe 5 acres or so, some really haggard looking caribous and nothing else.  I went in.  Just a dirt floor in the hut.  No running water.  One bare lightbulb on the ceiling in the main room.  No furniture other than a couple of hand-hewn benches and a couple of woven-mat-type benches.  A raised area for sleeping.  Absolutely _filthy_.  Lots of smoke inside the house from an idling cooking fire.  Little kids running around with no pants.  An old, old lady who lived in some unlit corner who seemed barely alive.  Anyhow I said hi to everyone, and gave the mom a lot of good chocolates I'd brought for her … she didn't speak English but smiled.  In 5 minutes the chocolates were smeared around the little kids' faces and everyone still hugged them and the chocolate got all over everything.  

Anyhow the girl asked if I could help pay for some catering so that she could have a little birthday party.  I said sure, and in fact volunteered to go get it.  Found a restaurant in the nearby town that could do catering, ordered 6,250 pesos worth of food and beer (it turned out to be a huge amount of food!), and found a trike driver to help me bring it all over to their house.  So far so good, right?  Strangely, when I pulled up in the trike with all these neatly organized trays in back, everyone just sat there.  They didn't say thanks or offer to help at all until I asked, somewhat annoyed, "Help me take this stuff inside, okay?"

Well, you can guess what happened next.  Every single cousin and friend popped up out of the woodwork to come over and eat.  Must have been 40-50 of them.  It wasn't a party in the sense of "party" -- no one even really talked or laughed, they just ate and left.  No birthday-ness to it -- even though it was indeed her birthday according to her postal ID (which I still have, as her sister had for some reason asked me to hold onto it).

Next I said to the girl, "okay, as I told you, we are leaving on the 9AM ferry tomorrow, are you all set?" And that's when things began to get really vague.  She hadn't packed a thing. Not a good sign -- packing for a trip always requires time and thought.  Just a vague, "don't worry!"

After another half hour or so, I was just standing around and no one was talking to me.  The birthday girl wasn't around.  A very pleasant older lady, I guess a family friend, who spoke perfect English started talking to me.  She was, if I understood correctly, a "peace and justice" officer -- not a formal policewoman but someone who I guess worked with the police.  She asked a lot of questions and it was nice to talk to someone who took an actual interest in me.  Really nice lady.

After 30 minutes or so of talking to her, and the girl not reappearing, I got frustrated so I excused myself and started walking home quickly.  It was a couple miles to where I was staying but rural rode so no trikes or whatever.  Super dark night in the middle of nowhere, but I wasn't scared, just getting pissed off.  I started to realize I had been taken advantage of, but I still wasn't quite getting the full of it.   

Now things got really weird.  Various sisters and cousins and the girl herself sandwiched between some others on a motorbike started driving up to me saying, "please come back!!!"  I said, "no thanks guys."  Lots of urging, and they just wouldn't stop following me.  I raised my voice and told them to leave me alone.

Then the peace-officer lady pulled up to me and said, "Can I talk to you for a bit?"  She pulled me aside. 

"Sure, what's up?" 

"You seem like a really nice guy.  I think you should know the truth." 

"What's that?" 

"That girl that you're visiting, well, that's not her brother.  It is her boyfriend.  Everyone knows that, except you.  I just thought you should know.  I'm afraid you've been taken for a ride, and the whole family is in on it.  I'm very sorry."  

I then walked over to the girl 50 feet away or so and asked, "You have a boyfriend?" She started crying and said yes.  "Why didn't you tell me?  You have wasted my time and money for nothing!!!"

I walked the rest of the way to where I was staying, took the dawn ferry off the island and never looked back. 

What an embarrassing thing.  Not that 6,000 pesos and a day of life is a big deal.  Chalk it up to adventure.  It's just that it was such a complicated scam involving lots of people, and you'd think that a smart guy would have seen through it.  Truly nuts!

 

Edited by AmericanInCebu
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AmericanInCebu
5 minutes ago, shadow said:

That is about the least complicated scam I have heard of in a long time. 

I guess I don't know much about scams Shadow, but it just seemed like an incredible amount of effort for them to go to just to get a birthday party catered!  (I mean, if you're going to go to such lengths to scam somebody, with lots of people involved, why not go for something huge!! ;-) ).  At any rate, certainly this was unique in my experience! 

Edited by AmericanInCebu
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Goetz1965

Lesson learned...  and welcome to the philippines :-)

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Dafey
21 minutes ago, AmericanInCebu said:

I guess I don't know much about scams Shadow, but it just seemed like an incredible amount of effort for them to go to just to get a birthday party catered! 

Well, you're probably not the first to get scammed by these people. They probably know the routine. Also, since hardly any of them speak your language it's easy to keep the secret. I'd be super pissed at the police lady who allowed you to be duped.

Don't worry about it...you actually got off cheap. Hope the rest of your stay was better.

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TimL

Like Mikal said above, if that’s the least that you get scammed here, you’re doing awesome. 

Chalk it up to experience and move on. That was a cheap lesson actually, we’ve all seen and heard about much worse scams to those who are too trusting. You may want to spend some time boning up on the scams here. Going to meet the parentals is one of the number one ways to get foreigners to pony up party money for the rest of the family. I paid for the parents come to Cebu. Hehehe

I figured that way I could get them out of the province to Cebu where they have never been before for a little vacation and I could at least control what was going to happen and how many people I would have to pay to accommodate.  Worked out great and it was a much calmer setting for all involved.

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Jawny

This is pretty common where I live.  In fact, the girl will often have more than one local boyfriend and several foreigners chasing after here, multiple nationalities. The people participating were more likely just hungry for a catered meal.  I doubt there was much in the way of a conspiracy.  

I think the experience may turn out for you to be a great tale to tell as you did for us.  

When I got married to my Filipina wife, we were married in Manila. It was several months before we celebrated the nuptials in her Barangay. I paid for a catered meal with lechon and much more.  We have lots of photos from that day, and the funny part for both of us is that we didn’t even eat much.  There were dozens of neighbors just hanging around until the feeding began.

There is even a common term to describe one of the benefits of such a feast........"bring house". This is the process where a plate is loaded with food and taken home.  

Even with birthday parties where the guests all know each other and mostly related, the feast is commonly quiet, no significant greetings or gifts brought. Come, eat, go.

 

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AmericanInCebu
2 minutes ago, Jawny said:

This is pretty common where I live.  In fact, the girl will often have more than one local boyfriend and several foreigners chasing after here, multiple nationalities. The people participating were more likely just hungry for a catered meal.  I doubt there was much in the way of a conspiracy.  

I think the experience may turn out for you to be a great tale to tell as you did for us.  

When I got married to my Filipina wife, we were married in Manila. It was several months before we celebrated the nuptials in her Barangay. I paid for a catered meal with lechon and much more.  We have lots of photos from that day, and the funny part for both of us is that we didn’t even eat much.  There were dozens of neighbors just hanging around until the feeding began.

There is even a common term to describe one of the benefits of such a feast........"bring house". This is the process where a plate is loaded with food and taken home.  

Even with birthday parties where the guests all know each other and mostly related, the feast is commonly quiet, no significant greetings or gifts brought. Come, eat, go.

 

I appreciate your reading it, I know it was long!  It's hard to describe how much of a dunce I felt like!!!

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the.lone.gunman
3 minutes ago, AmericanInCebu said:

I appreciate your reading it, I know it was long!  It's hard to describe how much of a dunce I felt like!!!

You are not a dunce. Different playing field here, different rules. Little “scams” like this are very common. Have a laugh about it, lesson learned, carry on.

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AmericanInCebu
1 minute ago, the.lone.gunman said:

You are not a dunce. Different playing field here, different rules. Little “scams” like this are very common. Have a laugh about it, lesson learned, carry on.

For sure.  Heck, it was a gorgeous ferry ride on the way back and I was both embarrassed and laughing at myself!

Out of curiosity, what is a "peace and justice officer"?  Do they really have civilians who cooperate with police?  Doesn't matter one way or the other, I was just curious as to whether that lady was lying to me too

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the.lone.gunman
2 minutes ago, AmericanInCebu said:

For sure.  Heck, it was a gorgeous ferry ride on the way back and I was both embarrassed and laughing at myself!

Out of curiosity, what is a "peace and justice officer"?  Do they really have civilians who cooperate with police?  Doesn't matter one way or the other, I was just curious as to whether that lady was lying to me too

I have travelled all over the PI for about 10 years but I have never heard of  a “peace and justice officer”.  It might just be a local barangay thing like ”neighborhood watch”.

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lamoe
2 minutes ago, AmericanInCebu said:

I appreciate your reading it, I know it was long!  It's hard to describe how much of a dunce I felt like!!!

Don't - each of us can probably relate to a similar experience - either intentional, only some individuals in the family , or  just the way things are.

Her family was coming to Mactan for an event - invited them to Cebu City to see our condo and a family dinner at Ayala Island Paradise - 10 people total. Ordered 2 Boodles (family style meals) and  extras - they ordered own drinks (papa said pitchers - no alcohol)

One aunt ordered the crab just for herself at over 800 P and a cocktail.

Didn't say anything until we were alone and I said - she is never to be invited to any meal I host. Didn't care about the  1.2 K - it was that she didn't ask. Later learned papa read her the riot act.

For my 70th took them to Lantaw on Mactan  - relented and allowed aunt to come but asked papa to order - bill came and sister who owns the Inn insisted on paying half.

Depends on the family.

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oztony
9 minutes ago, AmericanInCebu said:

Out of curiosity, what is a "peace and justice officer"? 

May have been the local barangay tanod ......

Quote

 

Tanod

A barangay tanod, also known as a barangay police officer -- and sometimes as BPSO -- is the lowest level of law enforcement officer in the Philippines. He is a watchman for a barangay who is supervised by the barangay captain and performs a variety of police functions.

 

 

Edited by oztony
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