Strangers are not the only threat

American children used to be told “stranger danger”. Then it dawned on people that strangers were not the only ones children had to watch out for. 

People children  know and are supposed to trust – parents, relatives, family friends, those who are supposed to serve and protect (policemen, religious leaders, teachers, doctors, coaches) – as recent stories show, can also be a danger to them. 

I was reminded of this because of two cases of thefts involving money in bank accounts. The accounts of a fellow journalist and a friend of a friend were almost emptied after a visit from the son of a friend who offered to protect them exactly from this kind of crime. 

The young man visited them at home, tinkered with his laptop supposedly to create a protective wall for their bank accounts against hackers and fraudsters. Before he came, both victims received a call from his mother telling them her son would be visiting to safeguard their assets. 

The mother claimed her bank account was hacked and she lost hundreds of thousands so her son was going around visiting her friends to prevent their being victimized themselves. Trusting the mother who they have known for years, both welcomed the son to their homes.  

After the visit, my colleague who did not do online banking because she does not trust new technology, found out that an online account was created for her then emptied. Her mobile phone’s SIM (subscriber identification module) card was transferred to another device and she was getting threatening calls from her own number. 

When the thief was done, he had stolen more than one million pesos from my colleague’s accounts in at least four different banks. 

The other victim also lost over a million pesos. He found out after the very “helpful” young man’s visit that his phone’s SIM card had been swapped. In possession of the victim’s SIM card, the guy was able to transfer money from the accounts of his mother’s friend to other accounts where it was temporarily “parked”. 

Both mother and son vehemently deny they have anything to do with the theft. Considering the young man’s visit was immediately followed by the loss of their money, it is hard for the victims to believe somebody else is responsible. 

From these stories, it seems it is not just strangers who can do you harm. As it has been said before, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

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