Kristine (not her real name) had only wanted to buy a Louis Vuitton belt bag and figured she got a good deal after purchasing it from a seemingly legitimate luxury bag reseller on Instagram. It only took her a day to realize that she had just been scammed.
In an email exchange with WhenInManila.com, Kristine shared that she didn’t initially find anything fishy about the Instagram account which, at the time she transacted with them, had 10.8K followers and also had Story Highlights featuring positive feedback from happy customers.
“[I] was doing my usual browsing [on Instagram] before sleeping. An ad/suggested profile came up [called] “@Luxuryshopping.bags”. I clicked and checked it out. [I] saw that it had 10.8k followers and postings of proof of payment from other clients. I thought, ok this must be legit. I inquired about belt bags… he/she shared photos and gave me options. Nothing seemed unusual,” Kristine told WhenInManila.com.
But there were already a few red flags that Kristine failed to notice during their conversation. Despite sending multiple photos of the items that she was interested in, the reseller did not send sample pictures of the bag she wanted “when worn” even though she asked for them and kept promoting bundle deals and discounts if she bought more items or paid within the day.
She eventually pushed through with her purchase of a Louis Vuitton 2019 Summer New Wave Bumbag (retail price of USD 1,820 or ~PHP 99,000) and was given the bank account details of someone by the name of “Napoleon” where she paid PHP 20,000. And yet, the reseller kept urging her to buy more from their store with discounted prices.
“At this time I was having doubts so I did a screenshot of all our convos. He/she was giving me [a] very low discount and kinda hard selling already. I was firm that I didn’t want to buy anything anymore so I asked them to just [please] ship my item,” Kristine said. “This was already around 5:30 pm and he/she said it was ‘on process’. So [I] waited around 30 mins and made a [follow-up]. On process pa din daw (still, they said). Around 6:30 I asked them to just send me tracking info if na-ship na nila (if they shipped it already). No reply. I went to a meeting. Checked my phone again around 8 pm and asked for an update. No reply.”
It was at that point that Kristine discovered that she had already been blocked by the account. She tried calling the number that was initially listed on the Instagram page’s bio but was told it was a “wrong number.” Soon after, she was blocked there too.
“My heart sank,” she said. She just lost money on an item that was never actually going to be sent to her.
Kristine rallied her friends and family to help obtain more information about the Instagram reseller by having them make different inquiries. The reseller gave different bank accounts and different IDs every time. She even asked for help from the Facebook group “Best of the Best Manila” where a netizen pointed out that the Instagram account was allegedly being handled in Indonesia.
“In a span of 5 days, we (me and my friends and family) made 1 legit transaction which I got scammed for 20k. The rest were fake convos because we were just trying to get more info on them. We managed to get around 7 different names and bank accts of the scammer/s. 1 ID had the same face but different names,” she continued. “We found out that [their Instagram] account is managed in Indonesia. That’s why we’re teasing him about speaking Tagalog. Barok English niya diba sa texts. (Their English isn’t good in the texts.) But they have a Philippine cellphone number posted sa Instagram nila and marunong mag-Tagalog yung nakausap ko dun. (But they have a Philippine cellphone number posted on their Instagram and the person I spoke to there knew how to speak Tagalog.)”
Screenshots below from a friend’s conversation with the reseller after making a fake payment:
Kristine proceeded to make a police report but was told that they couldn’t help much with her case as the transaction happened purely online. She then went to the bank where she sent the money but was informed by the manager that the account was “already closed.” Kristine explained: “From what we gathered, in [these banks], you can open an online account with no maintaining balance [and] no verification of your ID. So this is very easy for scammers to do. Once the buyer deposits, the seller will immediately withdraw/transfer the money to their [online wallet, so that] there’s nothing left in the bank. So even if you report it [to the] bank, there’s nothing to hold or freeze.”
The bank offered to raise her concern to their online banking team but, as of writing, her case is still pending.
According to Kristine, her story must serve as a warning to fellow Filipinos to be more vigilant when online shopping.
WhenInManila.com also reached out to @Luxuryshopping.bags for a response. However, we too were blocked by the account.
How to protect yourself from online scams
There are a lot of risks that come with transacting online and you must always be careful when doing so. Here are our tips on how to stay protected from online scams like what Kristine experienced:
- Shop from secure websites.
- If a deal is too good to be true, it most likely is.
- Don’t send money directly to the seller’s bank account, especially when purchasing via Shopee or Lazada.
- If possible, do a meet-up so that you can verify the legitimacy of the item you’re purchasing.
- Thoroughly chat with your seller so you can easily spot red flags if any.
- Do a legitimacy check of the seller in online communities you’re a part of.
Do you have a story for the WhenInManila.com Team? Email us at email@example.com or send us a direct message on WhenInManila.com Facebook Page. Interact with the team and join the WhenInManila.com Community at WIM Squad! We also share our stories on Viber, join us!