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BEWARE! Modus Operandi in Starmall Targets Call Center Applicants

When Christmas season gets closer, various types of crimes sprout in metro Manila. Just last October 15, 2014, a certain call center agent applicant became a victim of a modus operandi in Starmall, Mandaluyong city. The alleged suspect posed as recruitment officer of Sykes Asia who professionally executed her malicious plan in broad daylight.

The husband of the call center applicant identified as Richard Dennis Ocampo shared the details of the incident on his social media account. He mentioned that his wife’s wedding ring, engagement ring, phone, wallet, and other belongings were taken by the suspect who introduced to his wife as “Grace”.

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As of writing, the suspect, “Grace”, is still not captured.

Here’s the details of the modus in Starmall.

To those of you who are applying for a job or going to a job interview especially those in the BPO industry, please be very careful and be very vigilant — verify each information you get, check if it’s the truth or if there’s any fraudulent motive.

WHAT HAPPENED:

My wife went to Shaw Blvd to apply for a job at around 2:30pm at Sykes Recruitment Center. She was approached by one of the dizers there and asked if she was applying for a job, they went inside and my wife sat beside two other female applicants. Another dizer approached her and asked for her name and resume and told her to sign the logbook. She then noticed this woman, seated on the other row near the door, smiling at her. Thinking that it was just another applicant she smiled back and waited for her turn. She gets called and proceeds with the interview; my wife wanted a day-shift non-voice/back office job and unfortunately there weren’t any available. She then shook hands with the recruiter, turned around and decided to sit and rest for a few minutes before leaving.

THE MODUS:

The woman who kept on smiling at her approached her and introduced herself as “Grace” [Obviously not her real name] and asked: “Oh kumusta? tanggap ba?” [How did it go? Were you hired?] My wife replied: “Hindi eh, wala daw silang non-voice ngayon.” [No, they dodn’t have any non-voice account at the moment.] My wife then decided to leave Sykes recruitment office and head home, Grace then followed her outside and asked: “San ka pupunta?” [Where are you going?”] My wife replied: “Kakain lang nagugutom ako eh” [I’ll get something to eat, I’m hungry.] She then suggests: “Tara kain tayo nagugutom din ako eh.” [Let’s eat together, I’m hungry as well.] She also added: “Tiga Isabela ka diba? Tiga Cabagan ako” [You’re from Isabela right, I’m from Cabagan.] [An information that she might have collected while inside the recruitment office.]

My wife, thinking that this “Grace” was just being friendly since they are both Ilocana, agreed to eat with her. She then told my wife that she had to go to the ladies’ washroom first. [Possibly dodging the obvious CCTV camera infront of Starbucks at the main entrance of Worldwide Corporate Center.] Then they went to the foodcourt, where the CR is located, and my wife suggested eating at McDonald’s instead since it’s just beside the exit. Grace then replied that she didn’t like the burgers at McDonald’s and wanted to eat at Star Mall food court. They left Worldwide Corporate Center from the exit beside McDo and headed towards Star Mall.

At around 3:15pm they were inside Star Mall, my wife bought Zagu and this “Grace” is now asking her a lot of questions [her age, where she’s from, where she’s living in the city]. She was fishing for more information that she could use to win my wife’s complete trust. She even took advantage of the fact that they are both Ilocana and was conversing with my wife in their local tongue. At 3:35pm Grace decides to eat at Jollibee and they are both seen entering the store. Inside, Grace picks a spot to sit and asks for my wife’s number claiming that she is an employee of Convergys for 5 years and that they can look for a job together. Trusting that this is the case, my wife gave her number. She then decides to order and even asked my wife if she wanted anything but she declined. She went to the counter to order her food and after a few minutes went back and left her bag on their table and hurried back to the counter to get what she ordered, my wife then noticed that she received a message from a recruiter from Sykes named Grace [there’s really a recruiter with this name] telling her to return at 4:30pm for a non-voice job interview and that she should be wearing casual clothes and no jewelries was allowed. This “Grace” got back and my wife even showed the message to her. Grace then said that she also has a final interview which was at 5:00pm.

My wife noticing that it’s unusual for a recruiter to require you to change clothes for an interview voiced out her suspicion [She even sent me a message which I replied “Give me the number and I’ll call that recruiter”] but this Grace insisted that sometimes they do if the client is strict. A 2nd text then came in telling her that she should be wearing a white blouse, a skirt, and a pair of stockings. This time Grace was more persuasive and encouraged her to just buy from the stores inside the mall and that she will accompany her.

My wife was half-hearted into doing this but this Grace was pushy and really wanted her to go to the interview. Grace was finally able to lure my wife into buying the required dress code. They went to a store called “Zhienelle’s” where she tried out a few blouses. The fitting room was small and cramped up, she had to put her bag outside the fitting room on a chair just inches away from her. She was mindful of her bag while trying on the clothes and did not close the curtain completely. The saleslady then handed her a new blouse to try on along with the skirt and stockings. The saleslady shut the curtain completely and this “Grace” took the opportunity to grab my wife’s bag and quickly leave the store. My wife noticed that her bag is missing and this “Grace” is nowhere to be seen. She now felt a sense of emergency and quickly asked the saleslady where she went, the saleslady said that she left and told her that she’d go and buy some shoes. At this point the suspect exited the mall and hurriedly went to the MRT according to witnesses.

We lost her wedding ring, engagement ring [It’s only a couple of months since we got married], earrings, watch, phone, cash. Her important documents are also in the bag [Birth Certificate, Passport, Diploma, Certifications, Curriculum Vitae]. We fear that she might fall victim to identity theft and they might use these on her/their next victim/s.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:

My wife alerted the local mall security but there was no sense of urgency from them, she was escorted to a nearby police station where she was asked for the details of the incident. She had it blottered and was assisted by a couple of police officers back to Sykes. They were also generous enough to lend my wife their phones so that she can contact me. Sykes verified that the suspect is disguising herself as one of the applicants and tries to befriend her victims [possibly providing fake resumes]. The text that the job seekers receive does not come from them and that they do not require a certain dress code for any interview. They also said that this is happening for a while now and that there are other victims as well. [In fact, they said there was another victim that same day — Daisy, also pointing out to the same name “Grace” using the same M.O.] The 2 police officers escorted my wife to the Mandaluyong City Police Department to file a Police Report.

At around 6:00pm I arrived at the Mandaluyong City Police Station, the same time that they arrived. We filed for a police report and had a request for CCTV footage made. Right now we are still collecting information and evidence regarding this incident. We did our own digging and backtracking hoping to find some answers and apprehend the culprit. We do not know if this “Grace” is working just by herself or if she’s with a group. Unfortunately, though we already filed a police complaint and have with us a request for CCTV footage, the security division of Star Mall would not cooperate. CCTV footage has also been requested from Worldwide Corporate Center’s security division and they promised us that they will contact us again once this is approved by their legal department. Sykes did not have any CCTV. Luckily, with the help of Jollibee Starmall Branch Manager Ma’am Janette and Mr. DK who eagerly helped us and provided us with the much needed stills and CCTV footage of the suspect, we extend our sincerest gratitude.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to Sykes Director Ma’am Mary Yu for working with us along with Mr. Tristan and Ms. Grace from Sykes Recruitment Center. It is imperative that we really work together in solving these crimes not just for our own safety but for the safety of our own family. You may not be the victim today, but think about all the hard-working people that strive to make a living through decent means. WE NEED TO PUT A STOP TO THIS.

THE SUSPECT:

1. “Grace”
2. Possibly in her late 20’s
3. 4’11” – 5’0″ in height
4. Fair complexion
5. Is an “Ilocana” [she speaks Ilocano fluently]
6. Claims that she is from Cabagan, Isabela.

Footage from Jollibee Star Mall. She is seen texting and placing an order [Girl wearing glasses, black blazers, pink shirt].

While it’s true that we should not trust a total stranger, there are some Filipinos who remains kind and friendly to our countrymen. However, we are advising everyone to be careful and limit your interaction to these strangers to avoid similar crime from happening again.

Modus Operandi targeting call center applicants may not just be happening in Starmall. It can take place anywhere else in the Philippines. Please be vigilant and limit your engagement to strangers.

If by accident you encounter the suspect, please immediately report her to the police in your area or inform Richard Dennis Ocampo through his Facebook account.

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