Thursday, April 21, 2016

20+ Life Hacks to Avoid Money Scams

People in the Philippines can be dirty scammers - use your money wisely.
We all know how 80% of the population, especially in the Philppines, are only concerned about money-making, pyramid schemes and scams, and foul corruption. Based from my experience (and my parents' experiences), here's a guide I wrote - 20+ Life Hacks to Avoid Money Scams.

1. Do not get approached by any random sales person.

 Even if you are told that "it's free", later on, you will be given an item that will be priced considerably, and you will be hypnotized and hooked to spending for that item. Stay away from these people, even in malls. People who simply give out flyers are okay on well-known malls and establishments, though.

2. Pretend to sleep when "preachers" step on public transport.

If you've traveled by bus anywhere in the Philippines, chances are you'll encounter a "God's preacher" who "preaches about the Word of God" and gives out white envelopes for donations. This is clearly a form of racket and scam. Preachers shouldn't ask for anything in return, and the white envelope makes it feel like they're asking for something, which is stupid. 

You may want to give a few coins, but don't give bills, please. Or, just pretend to sleep once you detect their presence. You'll even encounter these people in jeepneys, which sucks. They're just trying to use religion in a stupid way.

3. Choose beggars wisely and choose the place and timing.

You have probably heard of children being used as bait by syndicates to beg for money on motorists, which is extremely fucked up. So to avoid commotion, pick beggars wisely. Dad mostly advises to give to people with poor living and health conditions, and not the annoying ones. 

Be careful - some of these kids, especially in the Philippines, will kick you, curse you, throw slippers at you, or even hit your car if you don't give money. Capture such events on video and report to the authorities. Sadly, this is the result of the Filipino people being irresponsible and cruel assholes to children, especially in Metro Manila.

4. Put a "no solicitation" sign on your store (if you have one).

If you have a store, let's say a sari-sari (general merchandise) store, you may want to put up a "no solicitation" to avoid those stupid racketeers for begging for money. You may also want to put a "bawal ang utang" (no debts allowed) sign to ward off these stingy people. I've seen a lot of sari-sari stores put up "bawal utang ngayon, bukas pwede" (no debts allowed today, but tomorrow you can), which is a funny and witty way to warn them and keep them disciplined.

5. As much as possible, never attend any "free seminars", except official, informative ones from the government.

Every seminar that is held will always have a fee if for a good purpose, such as educating people or giving them livelihood knowledge. While the government may hold free seminars here and there for our folks in the poverty sector, do not ever attend any free seminar that is not official by the government. 

Chances are, these "free seminars" are actually baits to get you into a pyramiding scheme business, where you have to recruit this and that to get commission, etc. It's a fucking stupid and cheap, dirty tactic, so please, don't ever let yourself be bait.

6. Know that there are no shortcuts to earning money fast.

Filipinos always like to take shortcuts and this is why they either go abroad, invest in pyramiding businesses and all that jazz. But to earn money, you have to have patience and a lot of hard work. 

It is not something that you easily pick up from the street - even the lottery has a one in a million chance of bringing you success, which often comes with a bad price for your life (majority of the lottery millionaires I know live alone and have no family or friends left).

7. Always read contracts, or get them translated if in a foreign language.

This is based from an experience from one of my relatives, though. Please, always read a contract before signing it, as you could have big regrets later. This is more so if money is involved. Even if you think that money is not involved, still read the documents fully so that you don't get scammed.

8. If you're unsure about a customer, ask for a down payment.

This happened to me more than many times, both in freelancing / music commissions and in school project / home business. Your customer should value your effort and you shouldn't be a martyr to the even if they are a family member or a friend - business is business. Work rendered is work paid. Make sure they are serious about the deal by asking for a down payment, especially if the work is tough as hell.

9. Before going to the malls, go to Taiwanese, Chinese and thrift markets first.

Nowadays, most products are, excuse me but, made in China or Taiwan, and are mostly sub-standard (but not all of them, though). If you plan to buy something, always consider the cheapest option first - the thrift markets, as malls always tend to overprice these things. Just because you bough it at a mall doesn't necessarily mean it's durable and high quality. Sometimes, thrift markets have better prices on items. You just need to watch for pickpockets.

10. Be extra careful when transacting online.

If you are new to buy and sell online, I suggest you get help from a friend or a relative who is an expert at such. Cash should only be given at the meet-up if possible. Don't give out cash readily - make sure you get the item first and then you pay up. Be careful when making down payments as well and make sure this person is trustworthy as a seller.

11. Don't be greedy.

As mentioned above, there is no shortcut to success. Anything that claims to give you a chance to earn money fast is always too good to be true. Earning money takes a lot of time, effort and proper handling and business skills. You shouldn't be too stingy or manipulative with money - always consider the budget of the customer and other people and don't be too greedy. Greed leads to a bad karma in the future.

12. Don't agree to a job without knowing everything about the job.

If you are applying to a job, don't just consider the salary. Consider the possibility of moving to another place, getting rigorous and life-threatening tasks, or anything that sounds very fishy. As much as possible, don't apply to someone without conducting a background check - you could end up working for a strip club or drug syndicate by bad luck (hopefully not).

13. As much as possible, don't risk your life and money going abroad to avoid illegal recruitment.

Most Filipinos think that going abroad is the answer to all problems, but it's not always like that. Almost all cases of OFWs end up in rape victims, caskets, frame-ups, foreigner abuse and most importantly, illegal recruitment. 

Don't risk your life and your family's future just for a big-shot shortcut - act smarter and try all other options such as local jobs or setting up a local business. But if you really want to go abroad, make sure you'll get a job that doesn't involve taking shit from foreigners, and make sure you go for a POEA certified recruitment agency. 

14.  Always count your money / don't pay with big bills in thrift markets.

This happens especially when you risk your life in thrift markets. Aside from counting money and/or change before you leave,  make sure the bills aren't counterfeit! If possible, don't ever pay up with big bills on thrift markets and side vendors, as they could just keep it for themselves without giving you the change, especially if they say something like "magpapapalit lang po ako" (please let me convert this to smaller bills). It never happened to me yet, but there are times that it took me hours to wait for the change, which got me so nervous, so I guess I've learned my lesson on that.

15. Canvas and survey every store that you can find to get the best deal.

This is what my parents often do when they want to save up. It is best to survey every store that you can find in the vicinity before you actually proceed to purchase something. You never know that there could be something worth your budget and still meet your standards with its durability and functions.

16. Only buy what you want or need and stick to a list.

The problem with most people is the uncontrollable spending - they don't stick to a list. When shopping for grocery, always prepare a list so you'll know what you want and need and stick to it. Don't get easily fooled with something that you don't really want or need.

17. Don't just read online reviews - get real opinions from real people around you.

Reviews from online websites such as Amazon, eBay, Lazada, etc. are okay to trust, but you should trust real people more. Make sure that the person is in no way affiliated with the company or store you are trying to purchase from. Ask around for people in your neighborhood or locality who have purchased the product.

18. Learn from mistakes in the past.

Even when you've done everything to avoid getting scammed, sometimes there are just some bad things that happen. This is why you can use these mistakes in the past to avoid getting scammed in the future. This is also why I rarely take music commissions because they mostly just run away from me or steal my content.

19. Anything that is "too good to be true" is most likely not true.

Remember, again, that there are no shortcuts to earning money, just like slimming down. Anything that gives you so much privilege doesn't necessarily mean it's customer friendly - chances are, they'll trick you in the end.

20. As much as possible, never do business with your family and friends.

You can sell a few items here and there, but as much as possible, don't go into big deals. This might cause conflict between you and them in the near future. They should buy from you on their own will and not because you forced them to.

21. If possible, always have the item tested before purchasing, especially appliances.

You never know what kind of defects might occur and appear if you didn't test an appliance before you buy it. Do this especially for items that don't have a clear or solid warranty period.

22. Only apply for patron cards on stores you frequently go to.

If you rarely shop at a store, don't bother signing up for a patron card that might require you an additional fee to enroll. I have a 7eleven Rewards Card, which is somewhat useful because 7eleven is quite near our house, just a few walks away, and I often buy snacks there and redeem awesome stuff from the points I earned (most were small food items). 

My mom used to have an SM Advantage Card but ditched it because there's an expiration and a renewing fee - and we don't even shop at SM that much because it's a mall only for the rich people.

23. If dealing with big legal matters, ask a trustworthy, unbiased lawyer or financial expert.

Lawyers and financial experts might ask you for a few consultation fees but in the end, if getting secured with a deal is what you absolutely need then it's no harm. After all, not all of us are knowledgeable with legal matters.

24. Always protect your bank and ATM account information.

ATM scams are all over the planet - the Philippines is no exception. As much as possible, only withdraw from malls and from known ATM bank machines like BDO, BPI, Landbank, etc. It's riskier to withdraw from outdoor ATM machines. But if you have no choice, thoroughly inspect the machine for any bullshit device that might hack into your account and PIN. 

Make sure there's a police guard nearby and never accept help from strangers or someone you don't know. If you see no police guard or bank personnel to ask help from, get help from a relative or friend who knows how to operate an ATM machine properly.

25. Don't ever lend an amount that you know the person can't possibly pay.

We've seen people make utang (debts) here and there, and most of them don't even pay and end up having a bitter relationship with neighbors or moving from place to place. Always be careful and never lend an amount to a person who can't possibly pay that amount. 

As much as possible, only lend money to your closest friends and relatives. If they want to borrow money again and they still have an outstanding balance, send them to depths of hell and tell them to get a proper source of income.

26. Make regular loans on your social security account so that it doesn't get used wrongly by others.

I explained this in my other article. In the Philippines, there had been many cases of inside jobs resulting in SSS members "loaning something" they didn't loan. To avoid that, make sure you regularly loan from your account even while making contributions so that people don't take advantage of it.

27. Please, don't risk your money on investment companies - save them in the bank or your home vault instead.

We've seen a lot of educational plans and insurance companies close down due to bankruptcy - please don't risk your hard-earned money further just because they promise you with a brighter future and flowery yada yada yada and "your money will grow" bullshit. 

You should only keep money on the bank or if you are extra paranoid with hold-ups and robberies in your neighborhood, keep them in your wallet or home vault. But if you're an uncontrollable spender, you might want to save a few bills and coins on places you don't often check, so that you'll have something to pull out in the future - or just get a good-old piggy bank.

28. Don't ride a tricycle (in the Philippines) if you don't know how much he'll charge you and if you don't know the exact location of your destination.

This happens a lot, especially in Manila. In fact, the worst case scenario is that the motherfucking driver will charge you so high but will just literally circle around the place when your destination is actually just nearby. Bottom line - DON'T ask for directions in Manila, EVER. 

29. As much as possible, in general, avoid riding taxis. You never know what could happen.

Taxis, especially in the Philippines, are generally walking coffins so if you value your virginity, money and life, please don't take the taxi. If you live in Manila, it's more advisable to get your own car, motorcycle (bicycle is preferable for short distances and Eco-friendly purposes), ride jeepneys or buses, or maybe just walk. 

But if your schedule is midnight graveyard shift, for Christ's sake get a private vehicle or hop on a friend's vehicle instead. Don't risk your life. Please.

30. Make sure down payments only reach up to half, not 3/4 of the whole sum.

Down payments can be scary, if you are the buyer. It is recommended that you should only pay 1/2 or 1/4 of the total sum, otherwise you are going to be tricked. For sellers, it is recommended that you don't become too greedy.

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