IT WAS late Monday morning and I was expecting a quiet end to the work day when I heard a commotion in the room next to my office. One of my staff was on the phone, pleading to someone to bring her children home.
I could tell something had gone terribly wrong, so I went to check what was going on. As my staff explained what had happened, the others in the office shook their heads: ?Budol-budol. . .?
This is what happened, or rather this is what seems to be happening maybe on a daily basis. The criminal gang notices that the adult occupants of a home are out working most of the day, leaving the house to a helper. They call in and tell the helper that her ?amo? (employer) has had an accident or some other kind of emergency, and needs money badly. The helper is told to look not just for cash but for jewelry or anything that can be used to get money for the employer, and to go to some mall or public place with the money.
In worse cases, as with my staff, the criminals will ask the helper to bring the children as well because the employer wants to see them.
Such cases usually involve a gullible helper but there have also been instances where the helper may be an unwitting accomplice, having been befriended by one of the gang members, maybe even courted.
In the more benign cases, the gang takes the money and disappears. More grim scenarios involve holding the children hostage. In my staff?s case, she was lucky that the helper could not find the place where the gang members were supposed to meet her. It might have been that the gang also intentionally gave a wrong meeting place because right after the helper left with the children, the gang broke into the house and took off with money. I shudder still wondering if the gang might have intended to rob my staff twice.
Only last month, a friend of mine e-mailed me something from the Internet: ?top 10 modus operandi of most common crimes in Manila? and I had e-mailed him back, ?This is amazing.? Some of the crimes seemed so incredible I wondered if they were urban myths, spread around by word of mouth and the Internet but never really happening.
There?s the ?airport ambush? where cars repeatedly ram your car, usually in the early morning hours, forcing you to get down and the criminals taking over the car.
Another one involving cars is the ?test drive? scam. The criminals respond to your ?car for sale? ad, and then ask if they can test drive it. I can?t believe there?s anyone that trusting as to allow a prospective driver to go off with the car alone but apparently it does happen.
Then there was the Zesto gang, which really blew my mind. Here, you?re approached on the bus by someone who looks like a conductor. You hand over your fare and the fake conductor suddenly whips out a Zesto pack, sticks a straw into it and gives it you, demanding payment for the Zesto! Caught off guard, you don?t argue and resign yourself to the unwanted Zesto.
Other crimes I had heard of, like a growing problem in high-rise office and residential buildings, where burglars simply walk into unlocked offices and homes. This is actually happening now in school offices and classrooms as well, including at UP.
Then there are the ATM scams, from people peeking behind your shoulder for your security PIN, to metal contraptions that block the slot where you are supposed to get your cash. You think the machine is malfunctioning and walk away, and the techno-savvy thieves step right up, take out the contraption and withdraw your cash.
What happened to my staff was described not as ?budol-budol? but ?dugo-dugo gang.? These faked emergencies are an old scam, dating back many years. The Internet list describes it this way: ?This group robs affluent homes by tricking unsuspecting house helpers into helping them get to the homeowners? cash and valuables stash.? I?ve noticed though that lately, the gang (or gangs) have shifted to middle-class families, perhaps because it?s become harder for helpers to leave the more upper-class gated subdivisions without their employers? permission.
It?s interesting ?budol-budol? is explained differently on the Internet list: ?The Budol-Budol Gang can strike anywhere using their alleged powers of hypnotism and ?boodle? or counterfeit money?hence the name?that turns out to be just sheets of paper.? Sounds like the ?wan tu tri? (1, 2, 3) gangs from the past, where the con artists would foist on people, including household helpers, ?magic boxes,? claiming that if you put money into it, the box would multiply the cash many times over. The shysters would go off, claiming they needed to do incantations and, of course, never come back.
These days, people are smarter so the criminals have to look for new ways, offering quick get-rich schemes. Victims will still claim they were ?hypnotized? in the process, which, psychologists will tell you, is a myth?you can?t be hypnotized against your will. But yes, you can be easily mesmerized, in a manner of speaking, by the masters of glib talk.
The fact that ?budol-budol? is now used, generally, to refer to any kind of scam where people are fooled by smooth talk, tells us how modern crime has evolved. We just might see snatchers and pickpockets, with their use of brute force, eventually disappearing, rapidly being replaced now by criminals who know that the bigger pickings come from fooling people, an incredible use of the powers of persuasion.
And they don?t have to be underground syndicates. Some of the worst scams are perpetuated by very legitimate marketing firms operating openly out of malls, approaching the elderly and other people who look easy to fool (like absent-minded professors), and then offer you some deal on appliances, or resorts (?Sir, pa-survey lang,? when all they want is your phone number so they can keep pestering you), or insurance. The list of possible scams goes on and on.
Visit: http://www.spot.ph/featured/46492/top-10-modus-operandi-of-the-most-common-crimes-in-manilaTop 10 Modus Operandi of the Most Common Crimes in Manila
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