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Ripa fraud takes P300M from Boholanos

A sucker is born every minute. It is in this adage that scammers feed on, as they endlessly find ways to scam the gullible by offering a shortcut to riches. Nobody reforms the innocent ripa-ripa, for example, to suit to their needs other than the conmen and scammers.

Ripa-ripa is a traditional neighborhood way of helping each other to get cash, own goods or appliances which are otherwise too expensive to get. Led by a leader, a group is informally formed - usually made up of neighbors, people who know and trust each other. They then agree on the target for the month.

Say, the group agrees on a brand new refrigerator. Since the refrigerator costs around P12,000, they agree to pitch in P1,000 a month. If there are 12 members, they can agree to pitch in P1,000 per month. They meet on a specific date, bringing with them the cash for the money pool. During the meeting, they draw lots who gets the P12,000. By the next month, they gather again putting in P1,000, and draw lots again, this time excluding the member who has already gotten his share.

Also adopted as a system to generate savings, some ripa-ripa members agree to lend the money they raised, to earn interest. After a year, usually a month before the fiesta, the member will get his investment, plus the interest in the lending business.

Ripa-ripa has always been a refuge for people who could not afford to go to the bank, an organizer said. "There is always a way to make fiestas more fun, and poor families to own dream appliances or things, from cooking pots to appliances, she added.

Now, enters the sweet talking scammer.

Seeing that this ripa-ripa could be a launching pad for investments, he comes in and asks the group: What if your P1,000 turns to P1,500 in a month? Or what if it doubles in two weeks? Offering a non-risk or low-risk handsome deal of high return of investment, those eager to get rich quick take the hook.

True enough, by the next month, the investment returns come. A quick P1,500, a victim shares her happy tale at the start of her investment.

But how did the scammer get the money to payout for the extra P500? He gets this by starting a new group, say P1,500 turns to P3,000 in a week. From the members who paid P1,500, he gets the P500 and this forms the payout for the ripa-ripa group.

He keeps the P1,000 from the second group. Then he starts a third group: P3,000 turns to P4,500. As soon as the members remit their payments, he gets the P3,000 to payout for the second group and keeps the P1,500 for himself.

By this time, those members of the two groups spread the word. "This is legitimate, you do not need to be afraid, we have received the payments and all are good," another victim shared.

Again, a scammer starts another group, possibly those in the previous ripa groups who have received their handsome payouts. For members who had their payout, usually everything they get, they put in again, to double the money in time.

This is when Dianne (not her real name), 25, thought she could pool money using the same scheme as a reseller. "Naa koy gamay nga savings, akong gi withdraw kay pila ra may interest intawon sa bangko. Akong gi-invest. Two weeks later, miabut nag P24,000 ang akong P10,000 (I withdrew money from my savings because the bank only offers a small interest. I invested that money. Two weeks later, my P10,000 reached P24,000)," she shared.  

Diane's confession is among the few who were brave enough to share how they got scammed. P5,000 turns to P8,000. The new payments go to pay for those investing to get P4,500. The scammer gets P500 at least.

Then he starts yet again a now group. P8,000 turns P12,000. This goes on and on and on every group, the scammer gets at least P500 to P3,000, depending on the number of members.

How does this go?

The scammer sweet-talks the investors, promising a handsome return of investment. In Bohol, it is every two weeks for their money that is invested in the scheme. As soon as the initial investors receive their money and a good return, news start to spread and widespread recruitment starts.

This time, others who may be interested but without capital, put up their own group, enters the scammers game and becomes a “reseller.” Usually, resellers themselves invest, seeing that they, too, can adopt a smaller scheme by hitching on the big group.

As investments are successful in the first few weeks, this convinces more and more investors to put up their money in the system. And then, as soon as the scammer has already accumulated a huge amount, he disappears, leaving his resellers and the investors with the empty bag.

This scheme, like the ones in the multi-level marketing, are variations of the Ponzi Scheme. A similar financial investment fraud happened in 2016, a year before election. Kappa, baboyay, or any variation of the con game milked millions from Boholanos.

VICTIMS ALL. Hundreds of Boholanos trooped to the Bohol Wisdom School Gymnasium to get free legal assistance in filing cases and possibly recover their lost investments. (Photo from PRIMER)

To advise his constituents who reportedly lost P40 million to the ripa scam, Lila Mayor Atty Arturo Jed Piollo gives the following reminders:

  • There is no such thing as easy money. If it is an offer for an easy money, chances are, it is illegal and a scam.
  • Keep yourself grounded. Be content with what you have. Content yourself with those that money cannot buy like love of family, peaceful life, good health, and good relationships.
  • God gave us brains, so we have to use it. Check if you put in on a trusted investment.
  • Check if it is legal, with the appropriate licenses and permits from regulatory bodies. Even online businesses need to have permits so your rights can be protected. (RAHC/PIA7 Bohol)

About the Author

Rey Anthony Chiu

Regional Editor

Region 7

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