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Cybercriminals sell perfumes on line as front

Publication Date : 03-05-2014


They were only selling perfumes and books online and earning commissions from it, protested the 84 workers and managers of Digital Minds, who were arrested when police swooped down on their company  on Thursday.

But the documentary evidence seized by investigators said otherwise. The evidence included remittances from Western Union and screen grabs of the fake identities allegedly used by the workers in extorting money from victims who were enticed to expose themselves or perform sexual acts in front of a webcam.

Senior Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona, chief of staff of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) at Camp Crame, said the company’s employees used Facebook to scan the Net for possible victims, zeroing in on those who seemed lonesome and away from home.

Porn stars
They then set up fake Facebook accounts using images of porn stars as profile pictures to entice their mark to engage in a chat and later
in private conversations through Skype that would eventually lead to cybersex sessions.

Sarona said the victims were recorded without their knowledge while doing sexual acts before the webcam, and later harassed into giving money with the threat that the incriminating images would be posted on the Net if they failed to do so.

Scripts for chats

The head of the ACG said they also recovered scripts used in chatting with the victims that contained instructions on the most appropriate answers to give and the conversational lines to be used to entice the target victims into exposing themselves in front of the webcam.

In the Thursday raid, the police seized 73 computers and held for questioning the 34 workers in the premises, including the company’s owner-manager.

The questioning led the police to Digital Minds’ other branches where they arrested 32 in Legazpi City from a computer shop called Mocabyteâ along Barangay (village) Bonot, 16 in Libmanan town,  and two in Nabua town, both in Camarines Sur province.

Sarona said they were able to trace the head of the operation, a certain Charvel Rebagay, who reportedly established a partnership with several co-owners that enabled him to branch out from Naga City to Nabua, Libmanan, and Legazpi City in Albay province.

Borderless crime

The investigation on the cyberextortion activities in Naga City started in November last year, with surveillance started in January, Sarona said, adding that the operation involved the Interpol because cyberspace is borderless, and the complainants were victims living outside the Philippines, except for one Filipino complainant.

Sarona said Rebagay’s establishment devised a lot of schemes to earn money, but the bottom line was that his company violated Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Under the law, cybersex is defined as the willful engagement, maintenance, operation or control, directly or indirectly, of lascivious acts, exhibition of private parts, or any sexual activity with the aid of a computer system, Sarona said.

Those arrested were also held for violating RA 8484, or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998,which provides penalties for fraud involving credit card, telecommunications service or equipment, and other access devices made possible by advances in technology.


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