PNP cybercops tracking down, set to arrest suspects — Rodriguez
THE Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) on Tuesday launched an investigation into online scammers using the name of Journal Group publisher and editor-in-chief, Mr. Augusto B. Villanueva to extort money from their targets in the guise of hoax advertisements.
“We are investigating this latest online scam and at the same time warning the public to be wary of the existence of such illegal activity. With the help of the public, we are confident we can identify and arrest the suspects behind this scam,” said PNP-ACG director, Brigadier General Robert T. Rodriguez.
The scammers created the fake ‘journal peoples<peoplesjournalnewspaper@gmailcom> address to victimize the public, the PNP-ACG learned.
The scammers’ modus operandi is simple. Using the name of Mr. Villanueva, they will send an e-mail notice to companies they have been targeting, claiming that the newspaper outfit has received a Notice to the Public which will bring negative publicity to the concerned company.
The suspects are believed to be targeting people with delinquent payments on their credit cards or bank loans and using the personal information of their targets, would call the attention of their company’s human resource department and warn them of a forthcoming negative publicity thru Paid Ads in order for them to come across their monetary demands.
One particular e-mail message sent to a target read as follows:
“We received a paid ad “NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC” against xxxxxxxx dragging the name of xxxxxxxxxxxxx, indicating that there is a pending case violation of ARTICLE 315 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE/R.A. 8484 Access Device. We noticed that it will bring negative publicity against you and the company that is why we are informing you. It will be Publish for 3 consecutive Sundays and paid by a certain xxxxxxxxx.
Note: This is avoidable
We recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive error’s promptly (sic).
The scammers’ letter had the unsigned name of Augusto B. Villanueva, Editor-in-Chief in its last paragraph.
A similar email was sent to another target who promptly called the attention of the Journal Group and asked if the email he received is a legitimate email from Mr. Villanueva.
“It’s a scam. It wasn’t’ sent by our office,” the Journal Group replied.
The crime of estafa or swindling under Article 315 or the RPC may be committed thru different forms including one with unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence; by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts; and through fraudulent means.
RA 8484 on the other hand is an act regulating the issuance and use of access devices and prohibiting fraudulent acts committed relative to it and providing penalties for the crime.
The crime carries a minimum penalty of P10,000 and an imprisonment of not less than 12 years and not more than 20 years.
The PNP-ACG said the suspects have created fake email addresses to extort money from their victims by threatening to publish their pictures and the supposed criminal cases they are facing.
“It’s obvious that they are doing this for financial gain. What we have discovered is that they are using the name, logo and other details of Journal Group including the name of its publisher Gus Villanueva to scamp people,” said Brig. Gen. Rodriguez.
Another PNP-ACG official, Lieutenant Colonel June Paolo O. Abrazado said the email “firstname.lastname@example.org” may have been created only for the purpose of scamming and may have not been used to register in other platforms.
“The suspect deliberately created an email which mimics the legitimate People’s Journal with the attempt to assume the company identity to be used for scam,” the official said.
Abrazado said that the suspect may have only utilized the said email to contact the victims directly since no other online activity was found in other online platforms.
“The suspect may also be using other online accounts and services for communication and other purposes,” he added.
The PNP-ACG has sought the cooperation of the Journal Group in its investigation into the scam. The PNP-ACG can apply for Warrant to Disclose Computer Data (WDCD) to be issued to Google through the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLAT) being facilitated by the Department of Justice.
A PNP-ACG ‘Cyber Patroller,’ Police Master Sergeant Armrhod R. Presto has begun searching for Open-Source Intelligence and Social Media Intelligence to discover the presence and other linkages of the fake People’s Journal email account, said Brig. Gen. Rodriguez.
He added that the Journal Group may also email directly to Google via their email reporting service for the immediate takedown of the said fake Journal account in order to save other potential victims.
The general public is also encouraged to support the PNP it its campaign against cyber criminals by providing relevant information to the nearest police stations or through social media (Twitter – @PNPACG or Facebook Page – PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group) or through the following: Dial 117 or text 2920; PNP ACG Hotline 414-1560/633-143.