Are you a victim of a scam here in the Philippines and are wondering how and where to file actions against your scammer?
Below are some of the steps that you may need to follow in order to recover your losses and bring to justice those who scammed you. These steps apply whether or not you’ve been scammed online or via a personal (face-to-face) transaction.
Determine and identify who your scammer/s are.
Is the scammer an individual, a corporation, a partnership, or an association? This is important so that you may know which government agency to approach.
If the scammer is an individual or a group of individuals or if they introduce themselves as an organization or an association or even a corporation (but it turns out they are unregistered with the DTI or SEC), you can file an action in court (regular courts). You can file either a collection suit or a criminal case for estafa or swindling. Here you may need the assistance of a lawyer but remember you can always ask the court to have the scammer pay for your legal expenses too.
If the scammer is a registered entity with the SEC or the DTI, aside from filing an action in court, you can also opt to file a case either with the DTI or the SEC. If the scammer is a corporation or a partnership, file your case with the SEC. If the scammer is a sole proprietorship or a business, you can file a case with the DTI. Normally, if you file cases with the DTI or SEC, you are asking for two things:
1. Revocation or suspension of the licenses/certifications/permits issued to the scammer;
2. To recover your “investment” or you’re asking for a refund.
If you’d like to ask for additional damages, or if you would like the members or incorporators of the corporation or organization be criminally liable or personally civilly liable, then you must also file a criminal or civil case in court, as the case may be. Again, you can always ask the court to have the scammer pay for your legal expenses because you would not have brought the case in court if you had not been scammed.
There are many scams floating around. They can be online or offline (face to face transactions). I made an article earlier on how to spot one. Below are types of scams reportable to the SEC:
- Pre-need plans or insurance scams
- Investment scams
- Pyramiding scams
Below are reportable to the DTI:
- Raffle draws opened to the public that are not sanctioned by the DTI
- Pyramiding scams
- Unfair business practices (like not issuing receipts, or selling substandard, damaged items)
Who may file complaints?
The victims or more specifically, the members, the investors, incorporators, customers, consumers, or anyone who were financially disadvantaged because of these scams.
How to file your complaint?
I. Civil Case
For claims less than P100k
If you choose to file a civil action and you only intend to recover your investment (and nothing else) and the amount of which does not exceed P100,000.00, then you can fill out this form and file it with the nearest municipal trial court. So if you paid P2,500.00 (or any amount less than P100k) and you got nothing in return or the promised return of investment was not realized, then you can file a small claims case against the corporation or the person who recruited you.
Do you need to pay for a lawyer for small claims cases?
The answer is no. So do not think that in order to recover your P2,500.00 you will have to spend again. And please do not think that “P2,500.00 lang naman ang nawala sa akin, hayaan ko na lang.” – that’s simply wrong because that P2,500.00 you lost will unjustly enrich the scammer. Just think about all the other persons who invested P2,500.00 in the same scam, that could easily amount to millions and only the scammers are benefiting.
For claims more than P100k
In this instance, you will have to hire the services of a lawyer. The lawyer will then draft a complaint for you. Again, your lawyer can ask the court to have the scammers cover your legal expenses.
UPDATE: Small Claims limit was increased to P200k effective February 2016.
II. Criminal Case
If you opt to file a criminal case, then this only means that not only do you want to have the scammers pay your losses but you also want the scammer to go to jail. The usual case will be estafa or swindling. Here you do not need to spend for a lawyer because you will be assisted by the government through the prosecutor’s office. All you have to do is to approach the nearest prosecutor’s office, preferably the place where you got scammed (if the transaction is online then you can choose to sue where you are located). The prosecutor will ask you to execute a sworn affidavit which will be the basis of the criminal complaint against the scammer. In a criminal case, you can also recover what you have invested – so the scammer will pay and at the same time go to jail.
Note that you can file a criminal case or a civil case simultaneously if you want to, but your best bet is to file a criminal case because anyway, your claim for damages will be hear in the same proceeding.
III. Administrative Complaint
Department of Trade and Industry
There are a lot of complaints which can be filed with the DTI. You can check them all at DTI’s page.
Again, if what you are complaining is a sole proprietorship scamming you, then you can file a complaint with the DTI. As far as scamming is concerned, the following can be complained against with the DTI:
Deceptive or false advertising
Deceptive or unfair business practices
Selling of substandard products
Unfair packaging of goods
To file your complaint, just fill out this form provided by the DTI. After filling it out, submit it to the following address:
Officer-In-Charge, Consumer Assistance and Protection Division (CAPD)
DTI – National Capital Region
12/F Trafalgar Plaza 105 HV Dela Costa Street
Salcedo Village, Makati City
If you would like to file an email complaint, you can also send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure that in the email, the following contents are included:
1. Complete name, address and contact number of complainant (you) and respondent (scammer)
2. Narration of facts
4. Scan and attach proof of transaction and any government issued ID of the complainant
For more details, or in case of updates, always check this DTI page: http://dtincr.ph/complaint_page.php
To find out what are pyramiding scams, check this video from DTI:
Securities and Exchange Commission
Normally, the biggest scammers are corporations. Their modus operandi is usually highly organized and well thought of. In fact, a scamming corporation can operate for years without being exposed as a scam. Our history is abound with corporate scams which have operated for years before they were toppled down and after a lot of investors or members have suffered irreparable losses and damages.
There are a lot of scams facilitated by scamming corporations but let us focus on two of the most notorious corporate scams which are pre-need (or insurance) scams and pyramiding scams (or ponzi scam or investment scams).
For pre-need scams, you can fill out this form provided by the SEC. You will need to have it notarized by a notary public (that will cost you at least P200.00). After that, you will have to submit it to the nearest SEC office. You can check if there’s an office near you here.
For investment scams or pyramiding scams, you can fill out this form. Again, you will need to have it notarized and then submit it to the nearest SEC office.
Filing a complaint against a scammer is not that hard. It’s just that some victims choose to forget about the fact that they were scammed probably because they’re thinking that their investment, especially if it’s just P2,500.00 or below, is just a small loss. That kind of thinking is wrong because if you think that way as a victim then you’re just facilitating the commission of a crime. You’re just letting the scammers profit from you and they’re the ones who get rich (the few) and you the victim is left unpaid.
Let us not wait for more victims. Once you get to be victimized, warn others, file a complaint, be vigilant, do your part in making sure that these scammer criminals are put to justice.
As part of Filipinolosophy’s public service, we’ve already identified some scams or illegal businesses engaged in pyramiding, to wit:
SWA, which was originally unregistered as a corporation in the Philippines but had introduced itself and operated as such illegally from 2012 until April 2014 when it finally received a certification from the SEC. But it is still a scam because of its pyramid structure of doing business. Read more…
AdsZens PTC which the SEC had already issued an advisory against.
UPWARM, which is like SWA (only less organized). Read more…
NBO Global, engaged in monoline and other variations of pyramiding. Read more…
Probable scams (subject to further research, but watch out because initial research says they are most likely scams – based also on the advisory by the DTI above):
AEON [not AEON Credit Service (Philippines) Inc.]
PTB or Power Team Builder
PinoyDream or The Filipino Dream
The Gold Inc.
8 Brotherhood Alliance Marketing
The common denominator among pyramid scams is that you earn by recruiting. That is a practice specifically outlawed by Article 53 of the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Why is pyramiding against law? Check this DTI video or read this article: Scam o Legit na Networking?