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Online lending: Inside the ops of a debt-collection service

With rows upon rows of computers, an establishment in Pasig City resembled a typical office and efficiently hid its true nature as the headquarters of an online lending and debt-collection service. 

According to John Consulta’s report on “24 Oras” on Wednesday, the employees—armed with a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) that would prevent their calls from being traced—would contact clients with their company-issued cellphones and follow a script telling them that agents would notify contacts in their phonebooks if they are unable to pay within a designated time.

No fewer than 100 employees were caught in the act on Wednesday after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime Division searched the area.

The NBI said that operation originated from the complaint of a victim who was harassed by the company.

“Sobra-sobra po silang magbanta. Merong isang hinga na lang pati anak mo idadamay, isang hinga na lang ng anak mo, padadalan ko kayo diya ng kabao ng anak mo,” Jenny, the complainant, said.

(They threaten us too much. They previously told me that if I said one more word, they would involve my child; one more word from my child, and they would send us a coffin.)

“Nagko-comment po siya sa lahat po ng mga post ng mga anak ko, sa mga friends po ng mga anak ko,” she added.

(They would comment on the posts of my child and also the posts of my child’s friends.)

According to the NBI, two or three companies were renting out the office.

The National Privacy Commission has previously warned online lending apps that they are prohibited from accessing the contacts of the users of their apps.

“Kahit na i-allow mo sila, ‘yung individual apps, to access ‘yung contact details sa phone mo, hindi mo naman sila ina-allow na gamitin ‘yung mga contacts na ‘yun kaya mayroon pa rin violation doon sa Cybercrime Prevention Act doon sa illegal access,” NBI Cybercrime Division chief Vic Lorenzo said.

(Even if you allow them to access contact details on your phone, you aren't allowing them to use those contacts, so there is a violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, of illegal access.)

Individuals may file libel cases against the apps, according to Lorenzo.

Meanwhile, officials of the company said they treat their customers fairly, contrary to the claims of some employees.

“Nililinis po namin ‘yung company. Kumbaga, ayaw namin ng harassment, ayaw namin ng mga bad words na ‘yan. Sa maayos po. Bale ang sinasabi ko po sa mga agent ko is, kausapin niyo si client sa maayos na paraan,” Abigail (not her real name) said.

(We’re cleaning the company. We don’t like harassment, we don’t like bad words. We treat them right. I tell my agents that we should talk to our clients in a proper manner.)

The NBI said they are still working to identify the mastermind behind the operation.

“Iniimbitahan natin ang mga naging biktima ng debt-passing scam ng kumpanyang ito na lumapit sa NBI para ma-assess natin sa pagsasampahan ng kaso,” NBI Director Eric Distor said.

(We are inviting victims of this scam to reach out to the NBI so we could the cases we could file.)

The suspects may face various charges. — Joahna Lei Casilao/BM, GMA News