Top 10 Modus Operandi of Criminals in Manila

It is terrifying hearing news about crime here, there, and everywhere. We are always anxious about our security when we go out of our homes everyday. Even at home, we can never be so sure we’re safe. 

Recently, we’ve been hearing about a modus operandi victimizing travellers by planting bullets in their luggages only to end up in prison when airport officers inspect these unsuspecting travellers’ luggages. 

In an effort to keep the public aware and prevent crime, the Philippine National Police National Capital Region Police Office has published in its website’s Crime Prevention Tips section a list of the top 10 modus operandi in the Philippines to date. 

Here they are (all credits goes to the PNP NCRPO):


1. Sneaky Office Intruders

How it looks like: Office with little or no security (personnel or equipment like CCTV, etc) are the perfect place for thieves to break into. When do they do this? Lunch breaks. 

How it’s done: The most convenient chance an evil minded intruded could get to sneak into offices is lunch break. These thieves disguise themselves in various ways. Thieves could pose as an employee’s friend, a visitor, or as  a messenger. And they have all the ‘proof’ (e.g. Visitor’s ID, and other IDs) to successfully stage their plot. Office intruders target cellular phones, cash, laptops, and credit cards. 

In 2009, a woman was caught on camera stealing the wallet of an employee in a review center in Quezon City. The thief slipped inside the office and stole the employee’s wallet and seven credit cards. By the time the employee found out her cards are missing and reported it, four of them had already been used. Over 50,000 pesos was charged to her. The thief was caught by the police when it tried to purchase a laptop worth 23,000 pesos. The woman the police arrested was not the same woman seen in the CCTV footage in the office where the victim works. 

What you can do to prevent this: If your office is not equipped with tight security measures and equipment, it is wise to bring your valuables in a small bag wherever you go, or lock them somewhere safe (e.g. office locker, or your drawer). If an intruder has already hit your workplace, report the incident immediately. File charges if security catches him or her.


2. ATM (Automated Teller Machine) Scams

How it looks like: ATM scammers try all possible means to tap ATMs everywhere and extort unsuspecting card owners. 

How it’s done: ATM scams evolve through time making use of the best technology available to execute scammers’ evil plans. Let’s take a look.

2007: ATM scammers use magnetic rules to trap money, surveillance cameras and external keypads (which looks exactly like your typical ATM keypad), on the other hand, are used to capture Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Scheme machines are also used to retrieved ATM card information. 2008: ATM scammers use detachable aluminum contraption and paste to trap money

2009: Emerged a new ATM scam called ATM Card Switching. ATM scammers would approach card holders who have just withdrawn. Scammers will tell the card holder he left a 500 peso bill behind. The scammer will then suggest you check your balance. And while the card holder is checking his or her balance, the scammer sneakily memorizes the PIN and then drops a 500 peso bill on the ground. When the card holder picks the bill up, the scammer will steal your card and replace it with a fake one. 

How to prevent this: If you are withdrawing from  ATM booths, lock the doors when already inside. Also, bring someone along when withdrawing money, cover the keypad when typing the PIN, and move to another ATM when there are suspicious people around, among others.


3. The Zesto Gang

How it looks like: While not rampant today as it was years ago, Zesto Gang used to be PNP’s top M.O. hits. Zesto Gang targets bus passengers through distraction, confusion, or intimidation. While called Zesto gang, the gang sometimes doesn’t even sell actual Zesto juice packs. 

How it’s done: A gang member would board the bus, usually looking like a bus conductor (with bills of cash folded lengthwise and wound around the fingers by denomination just like what a typical bus conductor does). He’d ask an unsuspecting passenger: “Ilan?! (How many?)”. The passenger, thinking he’s the legitimate conductor, answers how many people he or she would pay the fares of and hands over the payment. To the passenger’s surprise, the gang member gets juice packs from out of nowhere, swiftly pokes straw in them and hand them to the astounded passenger. Dare to protest and say “That’s not what I….”, the gang member simply interrupts and say: “Ah, it’s too late, I already punched the straw in.” And guess what, they jack up the price of the juice pack to as much as ten times the actual price.

How you can avoid this: Be sure you are dealing with a legitimate conductor by looking into their ID, or uniform (which can also be faked anyway). Look behind the supposed conductor and look for mysterious pail or bag of juice packs. If you find one, voila! There’s your Zesto Gang. 


4. Airport Ambush

How it looks like: Carnappers trail victims from the airport and repeatedly bump the victim’s car until the victim is forced to stop and step out of the vehicle. Attacks usually happen at dawn. 

How it’s done: Carnappers love to pick victims seen at airport terminals before daybreak. Once their chosen victim is on the road, carnappers trail the victim’s vehicle and bump the victim’s car repeatedly to force them to stop. If the victim does not stop, the carnappers speed up to the front of the victim’s car and cutt off their way. Carnappers usually pick secluded areas. 

Past incidents: For instance, it was on C-5 Road in Pasig City where four men hijacked the van of Jorge Bernas, former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s son-in-law, with his family on board in June. About a month later, an American national and his Filipina wife and stepson were attacked at the intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard. Unlike the family of private individuals that survived the EDSA incident relatively unscathed, Bernas was shot twice in the stomach and once on the left arm. It was reportedly because he resisted the armed men and shouted for help.

How to avoid this: Avoid booking flights arriving early hours in the morning. Avoid C5 road and Shaw Boulevard especially at odd hours. Lock the car’s door at all times. When something hits your car from  the back, don’t act like a hero or a thug and stop to confront whoever’s out these, gas up and outrun the supposed attacker. 


5. Test Drive Threat

How it looks like: This M.O. targets car dealers or individuals selling their car. Carnappers pose as buyers who will test drive the car being sold–and later steal it at gunpoint. 

How it’s done: A buyer would respond to your “car for sale” advertisement and would ask you for a test drive. As a dealer, you accompany them. When you both are inside the car, and the buyer is driving, he’ll drive the car to a secluded area. Then he’ll point a gun at you, ask you to go out. Or even shoot you dead. Voila! Buyer’s a hoax, and a criminal.

How to avoid this: To avoid this, let seasoned car dealer do the job of sealing your car. Or if you don’t like that, be sure to set and dictate a test driving route and never allow the buyer to just stroll around with you and your car. Always bring one or two companions with you. Also, manage to take photos of all potential buyers before going out for a test drive (this is easy as selfieing is quite easy nowadays). This way you have their photo is it turns out one of your potential buyers is a thief. If the buyer balks at this, then no, refuse to let them take your car for a ride.


6. Condo Criminals

How it looks like: Oh this is classic. Burglars invade condominiums, apartment buildings, and townhouse compounds that are unlocked. Or would simply break and enter.

How it’s done: Burglars invade units that are left unlocked or simply break into random units. Once inside, they ransack the place for valuables. To top it all off, some thieves also vandalize the units they invade.

How to avoid this: Always lock your doors. Add more locks like chain locks. Also, ask the landlord to beef up the security system of the building. 


7. Backstage Burglars

How it looks like:  Shows or events are a go-to for thieves, too. The show itself is a perfect cover (distraction) for thieves. Thieves exploit this events, and sneak into the backstage and dressing rooms.

How it’s done: Thieves can easily pose as aides, assistants, yayas or utility personnel and blend in with the crowd. They can pick up, say, a laptop, a wallet, or a designer bag and quickly run, or even casually and nonchalantly walk off with it without anyone knowing or minding.

How to avoid this: Assuming you are part of a show, either as an organizer or as a participant (say a dancer, pageant contestant, or host whatever), you must designate someone to watch over your belongings at all times or designate a locked room or office as a holding room for your belongings. 


8. Salisi Gang

How it looks like: Gang members lurk anywhere where there are people. They’ll wait for you to get distracted. And when you are.. voila!

How it’s done: Salisi Gang members look as normal or as typical as possible. They can look pretty elegant, too. Their main tool is diversion or distraction. So, either they’ll wait until you’re “sabaw” (lost or distracted), or they’ll distract you. 

In a video shot in a major fast food chain, a trio successfully steals a handbag from a nearby table. The bag owner realizes what has happened a few seconds too late. The CCTV footage shot one night at a hip lounge in The Fort revealed a pack of attractive, fashionable young women working as a group but sitting at separate tables and ordering drinks like the other patrons. Each woman would flit about from table to table. At the end of their covert operation, the footage showed that one of them had filched a total of five evening clutches from various customers!

How to avoid it: One word: VIGILANCE. Keep your bag on your lap or within your sight. You might want to try some bag hooks so when you put it under the table you’re confident it’s not going anywhere. Don’t casually leave your phone, laptop, or camera on the table. If you’re out clubbing, just bring as little as possible. You know you’ll get drunk or just a little tipsy, you’ll dance whatever, so thieves love inebriated clubbers dancing or clubbing unmindful of the world already.


9. Dugo-Dugo Gang

How it looks like: This is not your typical burglar. This group robs affluent homes by tricking unsuspecting house helpers into helping them get to the homeowners’ cash and valuables stash. 

How it’s done: The group will choose the ‘perfect’ household to victimise. They’ll patiently wait until the house helper is the only one left in the house. They’ll call and pretend that a family member has been hurt and needs money for surgery or medical procedure of some sort. Then they pressure the helper into opening the family’s safe, locked drawers, and get cash and other valuables. Then they’ll tell the helper to turn over the loot to a gang member. 

How to avoid this: Tell helpers and everyone in the house about this scam. To find out if they actually remembered what you said, pretend to be a Dugo-Dugo Gang member and make them go through a drill. Take it a step further by rewarding those that keep their wits about them.


10. Budol-Budol Gang

How it looks like: Beware, these are witches. Oh, kidding! The Budol-Budol Gang have an alleged powers of hypnotism and “boodle” or counterfeit money–hence the name–that turn out to be just sheets of paper. Interestingly, Google Translate says “budol” means “gullible person.” 

How it’s done: Their ways change through time, and vary depending on circumstance but here’s how they basically do the their evil job: They tempt victims into giving them valuables or cash in exchange for a bag filled with fake bills or products. 

In 2008, two budol-budol gang members managed to get a cellphone, a Walkman, and 2,000 peso cash from an unidentified 16-year-old girl in Cebu. The suspects claimed they were looking for a vehicle to transport their things. Before they went to search for a vehicle, they asked the girl to hold on to a bag supposedly filled with money. In return, they got the girl to give them her valuables as a sort of safety deposit. To the girl’s dismay, she found out the bag was filled with just fake bills. 

In 2005, a victim claimed some Budol-Budol Gang members hypnotized her into giving them her money, jewelry, and mobile phones. She said she did not remember much after a man allegedly engaged her in small talk while she was walking along Ortigas Avenue. All she could recall was getting inside a certain van, drinking a glass of water, and handing over two years’ worth of savings of her seaman husband. All that in exchange for a black bag stuffed with sheets of paper.

How to avoid this: Do not talk to strangers. Of course, that can’t be helped sometimes so remember another basic rule: Don’t accept candy from strangers. In this case, if strangers are giving you something as “sweet” as a bagful of cash, you better refuse. If you’re afraid of being hypnotized, find out how the controversial phenomenon supposedly works to avoid succumbing to it.

Leave a Reply