The head of the Presidential Anti-Organised Crime Commission (PAOCC) in the Philippines has issued a warning that local scam syndicates connected to online gambling now pose a threat to law and order on par with illegal drug use.
PAOCC Executive Director Gilbert Cruz said that online scammers, due to their higher earnings and greater difficulty in tracking, present a more challenging problem than drug dealers. He stated that “the problem with online scams is now worse than drugs”.
Cruz referred to data from the police Anti-Cybercrime Group, which indicated that in the year leading up to August, authorities had rescued 4,092 Filipinos and foreigners who had been deceived into working under conditions of slavery by scam syndicates.
During the first eight months of the year, there were 397 arrests related to cybercrime out of 16,000 police investigations, with more than half involving online scams. Most of the rescued victims were involved in activities linked to licensed foreign-facing online gaming operators (POGOs), a trend that has grown alongside the prevalence of online scamming in mainland Southeast Asia.
Cruz said that the risk of online scammers being caught was lower than for drug traffickers, since the former hide behind fake identities. Additionally, online operations are harder to trace and chase.
Philippine gaming regulator PAGCOR recently warned against the proliferation of websites using the PAGCOR logo without permission to mislead the public that their activities are connected with licensed offshore gaming in the Philippines. PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Alejandro H. Tengco said he strongly advised the public to exercise caution when accessing such online gaming websites because of the risks posed by identity theft and financial scams.
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