PNP-ACG warns public about fake crypto app targeting Christmas bonus recipients

December 1, 2022 - 3:57 PM
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Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 14, 2018. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

The police cautioned the public about a fake cryptocurrency mobile application being circulated amid the holiday season.

The Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) advised the public on November 28 that scammers use this app to steal money from potential victims who seek to earn more from their Christmas bonuses.

PNP-ACG did not specify the name of this “fake” app.

“Online scammers are working double time to rob people of their money with only 29 days before Christmas and employees starting to receive their Christmas bonuses. ACG reminds everyone to be cautious in making online Crypto Investments,” the agency said.

“In their new Modus Operandi, scammers are now creatively enticing potential victims by offering Crypto Investments using a ‘FAKE’ Crypto App,” it added.

Workers are entitled to receive their 13th-month pay, also known as Christmas bonuses, at the end of each year, by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 851.

The PNP-ACG noted that this scam targets workers who prefer to invest some of their 13th-month benefits for additional income.

Potential victims or “investors” will be offered to download a specific crypto app that will require them to cash in their investments in digital wallets via their mobile phones.

The app’s “dashboard” will also allow them to see and monitor how their money grows over time, according to the PNP-ACG.

The agency noted that the app offers a high-interest rate, thus account holders can see their investment grow in a short period of time.

“As investors begin to see the growing interest their money has generated in a short period of time, they are enticed to invest more and more money,” the police said.

Investors will only learn they have been scammed when they try to withdraw their money.

“When investors start to withdraw their money, the apps will not allow them to withdraw. This is how investors realize they have been victims of a Crypto Investment Scam,” the police group said.

How to avoid crypto scam

According to PLTCOL Robert Bongayon, chief of the cyber financial crime unit (CFCU) of ACG, the Security of Exchange Commission grants two types of licenses that have to “match” for businesses to legally operate in the country.

These are the following:

  • Primary license – authority to operate
  • Secondary license – states the business’ specific product or service

“Usually, the Primary and Secondary license of the SEC certificate being shown by the scammers to prove their legitimacy does not match with each other. This is how people get scammed,” Bongayon said.

The police official also pointed out that scammers use fake permits from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and fake SEC certificates.

“According to ACG’s Crypto Currency Investigation experts, scammers use Fake DTI permits and SEC certificates whose Primary and Secondary licenses are not at par with each other to convince people to invest in them,” he said.

To prevent being scammed, Bongayon advised Filipinos who want to invest to visit the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to look for its list of regulated Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP).

VASP is the central bank’s term for virtual currencies under Circular No. 1108, released on January 26, 2021.

BSP’s full list of regulated VASPs can be viewed here: VASP.pdf (bsp.gov.ph).