The COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging for many Filipino families. It is understandable, then, that many of us will search for ways to augment our incomes.
Unfortunately, the unscrupulous have no qualms about preying on unsuspecting Filipinos even during these difficult times. In fact, these fraudsters seek to take advantage of people being more prone to making careless financial decisions during crisis periods.
The best investments, of course, are those that we understand well. Even supposedly high-reward investments, such as real estate or the stock market, need deep understanding of the assets involved in the investments. There is no way to get rich easily with investments. After all, if super high rates of return were possible quickly, why would those promoting questionable investment schemes want your money instead of just investing in these products themselves?
Some of these schemes are “cryptocurrency investment” schemes. These practices are popular among scammers because cryptocurrency is a complex topic. Few potential investors understand its mechanics, so false claims and fraudulent schemes are difficult for investors to readily verify and dismiss. Over the past several months, advertisements for such schemes have proliferated over social media. Many of these even claim to be backed by well-known personalities, such as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and former Senate President Manny Villar.
Of course, it can sometimes be hard to tell which investments are good and which investments are bad. This is especially true during desperate times, when our own good judgment is impaired and our desperation makes the decisions for us. Sometimes, it’s pointless to discern among different investment advertisements. Very often, the best approach to such schemes is to just filter them out and move on.
If a fake advertisement is from a Facebook page, it would be best to block and report the page. This way, you will at least no longer see the ads from the page itself.
While you cannot opt out of seeing Facebook advertisements completely, you can opt out of ads based on your browsing habits. The ads that we see on Facebook are typically based on our profile and the kind of content we typically view or click on.
To opt out of this system, log on to your Facebook account, and click on “Settings” at the upper right-hand corner of your homepage. Then, scroll down to the section in “Settings” marked “Ads.” You’ll see a number of ad preferences. Go to “Ad Settings.” Change the settings for “Ads based on data from partners” and “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products you see elsewhere” to “Not Allowed.”
The section marked “Ads that include your social actions” (i.e., pages you have liked) can be changed from being seen by “Only Friends” to “Only Me” as well.
Predatory advertisements are most effective when they can target their audience. If the ads cannot target you because they cannot “see” who you are and what you like, it will be difficult for them to craft ads that you are likely to fall for.
Apart from protecting yourself, you can do many potential victims a favor by reporting suspicious advertisers to government authorities.
Where to invest
The safest investments are those that are guaranteed by the government. In these uncertain times, there can be no safer investment than government bonds. They not only yield guaranteed returns while protecting your principal; they also help finance the country’s development needs.
Government bonds are a safe, secure, and patriotic way to invest. To make investing in these instruments convenient, the government has partnered with banks to open online facilities for buying bonds. Go to https://www.treasury.gov.ph/premyobonds/ to see how you can buy the latest issue of government retail bonds. Premyo bonds offer safe returns while making sure you get back your investment with interest, and providing you the opportunity to win prizes during their quarterly draws. You may also download the mobile app Bonds.PH to purchase retail government bonds.
During these times, people can make irrational decisions driven by emotions. It is natural to get attracted to financial gain. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Protect your hard-earned money. Watch out for red flags and do some digging.
The government is also pursuing reforms to make investing in legitimate opportunities easier and simpler. The Duterte administration’s proposed Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act (PIFITA) will simplify the tax regime for bonds and stocks by reducing the number of tax rates on financial transactions from 80 to 36. Once enacted, PIFITA will make it easier for everyday Filipino investors to put their money in safe and secure investment opportunities.
Where to report
For suspicious investment schemes, you may contact the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the SEC through e-mail at [email protected] or through landline at (02) 8818 6337.
For malicious messages, lodge reports to the NBI Anti-Fraud Division at (02) 8525-4093 or e-mail at [email protected]. You may also send a message through the NBI’s website at www.nbi.gov.ph or their official Facebook account.
You may also report these incidents to the PNP Anti-Crime Group (PNP-ACG) through www.pnpacg.ph or hotline number at (02) 8723-0401 local 5313.
When it comes to protecting your hard-earned money, it pays to keep a critical eye on everything. Great investments take time, patience, and well-informed choices from the investor. The chances of picking them off from a social media advertisement are extremely slim.
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