Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dugo Dugo Gang Trouble

We always like to think that unfortunate incidents such as dugo dugo scam will never happen to us. The famous PLDT commercial before, where a caller pretended to be the owner of the house and tried to lure the maid into giving him money and other valuables because he got into an accident, used to be just a funny commercial to me. I thought it was hilarious for someone to even attempt to do this and foolish for the receiver of the call to even give in and believe such an act. So, I never thought it would happen to us, but it did. 

It happened about a year ago, I was at a bazaar in Rockwell Tent. My 2 kids were left in the house with 2 yayas and my lola. I was on my way home already and tried to call home to tell the yaya to change the kids’ clothes already because we were going to the mall with the whole family. We will meet na lang in the mall because sasabay sila kila mom and pop (this is what they call their grandma and granddad). The line was busy. I tried to facetime the kids on their Ipad but nobody was answering, then I remembered that I told yaya to hide the Ipad in the cabinet to let my kids’ eyes rest from watching the Ipad too much. I also tried to call the yaya’s mobile but it was also busy. So, I stopped calling na lang. I went to my resto in Dapitan first and waited for my husband, Mark, to pick me up and susunod kami sa mall. When I was in my resto already, I finally was able to call home and lola told me that one of the yayas went out of the house in a hurry. Lola was asleep when the yaya went out so she did not know why the yaya left urgently. I thought maybe there was an emergency with his father or something, so pinabayaan ko lang. On the way to the mall, Mark received a call from the yaya asking if I was with him. Mark said yes and kinda shouted kasi I think yaya was freaking out already. He passed the phone to me because he was driving. I talked to yaya and asked her what’s wrong and bakit sya umalis ng house. She was crying already and told me that I called her. I was kinda nervous already because I could not understand what she was saying. She was finally able to compose herself a little and told me that someone who sounded exactly like me called our home phone and told her that I got into an accident. This is the exact time that I was trying to call home and the line was busy. The whole time, yaya thought she was talking to me. At the start of the phone call, someone else talked to her, (he was supposed to be a nurse yata or secretary.) He told yaya that I was in a clinic and got into a car accident.  She did not believe at first but when the “nurse” passed the phone to the person who pretended to be me, naniwala sya because she sounded like me although her voice was medyo mahina because she was supposed to be in pain due to the accident and she also seemed to know everything about our house. I told her daw that I needed her to bring all my branded bags, our jewelry in the jewelry box, dollars/money/checks in an envelope, etc. Kaya ang tagal nila sa phone kasi the caller was explaining where to look for these things inside the room. The freaky thing is, the impostor even asked kumusta ang mga anak ko! Yaya told me after all the drama that if the impostor asked her to bring the kids along with her, she would’ve brought them!!! Anyway, the impostor told her not to tell Mark about the accident because there was media and delikado daw. Nakiusap daw ako na don’t tell anyone muna. The “nurse” took over the phone call na kasi I was too weak daw because of the accident. He told the yaya to bring all the stuff to Sandiganbayan and to turn off her mobile phone (kaya busy din when I tried to call it), to hurry up and to not talk to anyone even the taxi driver kasi daw if the driver learns that she has valuables in her possession baka mahold up sya. So, yaya went to Sandiganbayan and was approached by a girl who took the big bag she brought and she was told to wait until it’s safe for her to go see me in the clinic. But of course, the girl never came back and that was when the magic spell broke and natauhan na sya and he called my husband. So, the items that were taken from me are more than a dozen branded bags that I used to sell (After losing those bags, I stopped selling bags na), and jewelry. 
some of the branded bags I used to sell in bazaars

At first, we thought it was an inside job or a former yaya that did this to us. But, when we reported this to the police, they said that dugo dugo gang is a big syndicate. We got curious why the caller knew a lot about us and even knew our names. How did she know that I had a lot of branded bags? How did she know where the jewelry is kept? She even knew yaya’s name. 

Apparently, these scammers have a checklist and while talking on the phone, yung nalilitong kausap nya, in this case our yaya, sya na mismo ang nagffeed ng information without her knowing. The checklist is a list of all the valuables that can be found at home. Like the branded bags, maybe the caller assumed that I had at least one branded bag. And malamang, there’s a jewelry box where jewelry is kept and most of the time it’s in the cabinet. The call was very long because the caller is trying to know what else can be taken in the house. The caller also asked my yaya to look for the envelope where I placed my money, dollars and cheques which I believe is also in the check list.
The police also told us that before the dugo dugo gang strikes, they study their victims’ schedule.  They would often call the house and pretend they’re from PLDT or BDO or other companies. True enough, yaya told us that PLDT and BDO have been calling every few days and look for me and ask what time I’ll be back. So, you see, they are keeping track of the time that I am gone and when I’ll be back home. They also said that once a household is victimized, the dugo dugo gang will most likely victimize them again kasi nakalusot sila the first time eh. After that incident, we still received a lot of phone calls pero mostly binababa ng caller if ako ang sumagot or from PLDT again. I told yaya that if the caller is looking for me, kahit wala ako, sabihin nila na wait lang po, as if to call me from the next room. The caller usually hangs up once nalaman that I’m home. Since then, we never answered phone calls anymore. We just let it ring but nobody answers.

With what happened, I came up with my own list of do's and dont's: 

  • Educate everyone at home especially the yayas to not give any information to any callers about anyone at home. Even if they insist that it is very important, just get their name, call back number, and the purpose of the call. (e.g. info that should never ever be given are names of the family members especially the kids, where the owners of the house are, their time of leaving and arrival at the house, don’t even confirm anything)
  •  Don’t give your home phone number/s to people you don’t know. Don’t even put it in any forms kahit sa bank or raffle coupons etc. Everyone has a mobile naman, so if they need to contact you, give your mobile number instead.       
  •  Don’t panic and confirm first if the story is really true. The usual story naman is there’s been an accident. So before anything else, make phone calls and check if it’s true.
  • Don’t underestimate the talent of these scammers. Always remind members of your household to be very careful of scams like this.
  • Buy a safe and keep all your valuables in there.

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