***UPDATE JULY 19 2015 – Looks like this is gaining popularity again as I am getting a lot of messages and comments about this. Please don’t panic. Most of the messages were asking for help and I am trying but I am not a lawyer and all my advise is just from my own experience and observation of the incident. If you are wondering what happened to us after this call? The answer is that nothing happened. The person never called again and I never bothered to call the numbers. Manila Bulletin themselves told me to just ignore it when I called their offices.
All I can tell you is not to panic and be smart. Please read my recent post which will give you some basic tips on what to do when you get a call like this – http://iamjulienne.com/blog/2015/07/melchor-flores-and-the-strange-phonecalls/
We received a call yesterday (on our office landline) from a scammer details are below. Please read carefully so you know what to do when you receive a similar call. Also, read the comments below to see what other people experienced. Don’t forget to share your own experience!
The Philippine Star (or Newspaper) Scam
How it works: Someone called our land line claiming to be from Philippine Star (or it can be any media outlet). In our case, her name was Shiela. She said that a corporate lawyer (she cannot tell you who) will put an announcement in the paper regarding one of your employees (she gives the actual name of one of my employees!) She said that that employee violated some law (she will name the law) and her name will be published in the paper alongside with the company name. She says that our company’s reputation is at stake.
The catch: She will say, “Call this number ( 225-5999) so you can appeal to the editor in chief (Ray Espinosa) to stop the ad and save the reputation of your company from damage.”
Here are the things I asked her (and her corresponding answers):
1) Why are you doing this? – She said magandang loob lang. They are calling people just to let them know so they can save themselves. She talked like she was doing people a favor. To me it sounded like extortion and blackmail.
2) Who is Ray Espinosa? – He is the editor-in-chief. He can help you put a stop to the ad. (In reality, Ray Espinosa is the Chairman, according to Wikipedia, of PhilStar. I doubt he would care to speak to me or get involved in such trivial matters.)
3) When is the ad coming out? In what section? – She said Friday, Aug 8. She didn’t answer the second part.
4) What else can we do, the ad is already paid for? Does this mean we have to pay to stop it? – She said that we can definitely negotiate with the Editor in Chief. (Translation: Yes you have to pay.)
I said – okay I will call him. Thanked her and hung up.
I proceeded to Google and fact check everything she had said. The editor in chief of Philippine Star is not Ray Espinosa. Also, their phone number doesn’t match what she gave me. We took it a step further and called several of the numbers on the Philippine Star site trying to verify our mystery caller. No one could give us any answers. Many of them said that it was a scam and one that happens often. We even called the number she gave. No answer. I have some friends at PLDT and Globe, the number is not registered to them. Could be a super duo number. Who knows.
But how did they find out about us? Easy. Google. It’s so easy to Google the company and find one employee and then with that just make up a false story. In our case, our Employee was supposedly in trouble for Estafa.
But what if it’s true? There’s a possibility. IF it was true, then there’s not much I could do, right? Just wait to see what the accusations are and then talk to my employee. Take the internal steps to handle things. However, my logic is that if you can pay to stop the media from publishing something bad about you, then PNoy would pay to save his reputation. Criminals would pay to hide their wrongdoings. Celebrities would pay to stop circulation of their sex tapes. The newspaper would be empty. But no. Every day bad (though not necessarily true) things are published and the media loves that. They thrive on sensationalizing things. So this seemed like a scam to me.
Has this happened to you? Share your story in the comment box. The more who share, we can learn about the variations of this modus operandi. Awareness is key!
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