Caught in the act by tech

Caught in the act by tech

Summary: Last Tuesday, a day before the whole Philippines went on a national hiatus to observe Lent in this pre-dominantly Catholic country, I accompanied two IT journalist friends to the Makati City Hall to witness the "inquest" proceedings of five suspects who were caught using somebody else's credit card.What's the big deal in this petty crime caper?

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TOPICS: Philippines
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Last Tuesday, a day before the whole Philippines went on a national hiatus to observe Lent in this pre-dominantly Catholic country, I accompanied two IT journalist friends to the Makati City Hall to witness the "inquest" proceedings of five suspects who were caught using somebody else's credit card.

What's the big deal in this petty crime caper? Well, there are two things that got us interested in the story: first, the victim in the credit card fraud was Mel Dominguez, a PR executive whom we know very well, and second, the incident involved some tech component.

But perhaps, the most important element in the story is that it was the first time that an actual illegal credit card transaction was monitored and busted in real time. In the past, a crime of this nature would have been reported only after the transaction had already been completed. Under local banking rules, a credit card user is answerable to all transactions charged to his or her account before a card is reported stolen.

Dominguez, thus, was lucky to have the 50,000 pesos (US$1,250) charged to her account voided because the suspects were apprehended on the spot. They racked up the amount on a shopping spree-–accumulated in just an hour--purchasing goods from premium brands such as Lacoste, Havaianas and Nike in a mall in Makati City. One of the culprits used a fake identification card with a forged signature of Dominguez.

What's also interesting is that the alleged mastermind behind the crime wwas the cashier of the karaoke outlet where Dominguez left her card. (I was part of the group of IT journalists who joined the karaoke event that night to welcome regional executives of storage vendor EMC, which is a client of Dominguez's PR firm.) The PR executive was unaware that the lady cashier did not return her credit card after she presented it to make payment.

It was only after two weeks--and this is where the IT part comes in--when Citibank called Dominguez one afternoon to confirm if she was indeed making the purchases in successive fashion. It turned out that the bank had installed a new system that automatically sends text messages or prompts a monitoring agent, when it detects high-value withdrawals or transactions.

At that time, the suspects were monitored to have made a transaction in a shoe shop. Coordinating with the bank, Dominguez then alerted the mall's security personnel who then quickly pounced on the shocked suspects.

The karaoke cashier was not among those who were collared, but it was later revealed that she provided the lost card to her cohorts. How did the police uncover that? One of the suspects deposited the looted merchandise in a supermarket counter and gave the baggage tag to the cashier. The tag was found in the possession of the cashier while she was on duty at the karaoke joint.

That's real-life CSI for you.

Topic: Philippines

Melvin G. Calimag

About Melvin G. Calimag

Melvin G. Calimag is currently the executive editor of an IT news website in the Philippines. Melvin has been covering the local IT beat for the last 13 years. He is currently a board member at the IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (CyberPress), and also serves as a charter member with the Philippine Science Journalists Association.

Joel D. Pinaroc

About Joel D. Pinaroc

Joel has been a media practitioner since 1996, starting off as a reporter and eventually becoming editor of a pioneering IT trade newspaper in Manila. He is currently one of the content producers of a Manila-based developmental website.

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4 comments
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  • Caught in the act by tech

    Hi Melvin,
    Thanks for sharing this story. It is indeed a fascinating story to tell. It gives me the opportunity to warn other people. Thank you for staying with me during the hearing.
    anonymous
  • Caught in the act by tech

    This is a very encouraging development manifested by Citi a reputable credit card company. Hope the other credit card providers in PH specially local banks will be as diligent as other MNC card providers to protect the interest of the consumers.....Of course, this calls for reliable IT infrastructure.....

    Hope all's well with you now, Mel:)
    anonymous
  • Caught in the act by tech

    You're lucky! Im a victim of a credit card fraud too, Im currently disputing it on my credit card company. I was unaware that I have an online transactions with Cebu pacific amounting 72K! My credit card company failed to notify me about this activity and I found this out when a shop decline my credit card. they said that i was over my credit limit! I just hope that this issue will be resolved.
    anonymous
  • Caught in the act by tech

    any updates on your case? recently, i've been charged with a fraud transaction too. and it's also with cebu pacific. T_T
    anonymous