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Budol-Budol and Dugo-Dugo

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I wrote about this topic recently on The Albularyo, focusing on the folklore aspects of these scams. I’ve copied part of that article here, explaining what these terms mean. However, one of our neighbors was recently victimized by these scammers, and expats need to be aware of things like this happening here, so I am going into a bit more detail.

Budol-Budol and Dugo-Dugo are rapidly entering modern Filipino folklore, part criminal enterprises, and part urban legend about magic and enchantment. Budol-Budol and Dugo-Dugo are gangs of criminals, no question about it. They are con-artists who prey on the gullible and easily misled, weaving superstition into their tactics, and seemingly vanishing away after their victims are fleeced.

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Budol-Budol gang members will often dress up neatly, looking as normal as possible as they stalk their victims, normally maids, ya-yas, or other household help as they go about their daily business. One of the gang members will approach the maid, and enchant her (hypnotize), getting her to unwittingly reveal information about her employer, their home, their routine, and how much money they have lying around. Sometimes they use kulam, and other times hypnosis techniques. In any event, once they have the personal information, they will lead the victim astray, either instructing them to steal from their employers, or instructing them to ensure that the home is vacant when the gang will come and steal everything in the house.

The Dugo-Dugo gangs operate under similar methods, only they use the telephone. They will call the house, hoping that the maid will answer the telephone, telling her that the homeowner or her employer was in an accident, and that she needs to bring money to the hospital right away. After the maid gathers the required loot, they meet her and, while she is enchanted, steal the money.

Is there magic actually involved? There are several things to keep in mind. First, once the victim knows that they have been conned, they are normally embarrassed, and claiming hypnosis, enchantment, or magic shifts the blame away from the individual. This is often the same pattern that the FBI finds in the States with victims of Nigerian “419” scams. Second, the gang members themselves perpetuate the myth, knowing that magic and enchantment are scary and intimidating. Finally, con-men are smooth talking, often mesmerizing to their victims, building up a modicum of trust.

Nevertheless, Budol-Budol and Dugo-Dugo have become quite common, and have woven themselves into Filipino folklore. The criminals are very sophisticated, and the NBI and PNP have had great difficulty in tracking them down. The shame felt by the victims adds to this difficulty, since the crimes are often not reported, or the police have few leads to the perpetrators.

Most expats in the Philippines have household help. Additionally, expats tend to stand out as having money or being easy prey. You need to make certain that your household help all understand not to reveal information about your home to strangers. You also need to instruct them that if they receive a call stating that you or a member of the family is injured, that the information needs to be verified.

Our neighbor’s maid disappeared a few days ago. She had received a phone call that her employer was hit by a jeepney and that she needed to bring 500,000 pesos to the hospital immediately. When she left our compound with the money (cash and jewelry), she was accosted by two men who claimed to be sent by the hospital to pick her up. Needless to say, she was robbed. When interviewed by the police the following day, she claimed to have been hypnotized and couldn’t stop them. Since this incident, the maid has returned to the province.

Was she involved? We really don’t think so. The maid worked for our neighbor for many years and was trustworthy. We believe she simply truly thought that her employer was in trouble and tried to help, being ashamed that she was conned. What is more disturbing is that with all of the talk in the compound about magic and enchantment, the real focus seems to have been lost: There are criminals stealing from residents. My suggestion to our neighbor was to let the HOA know that this happened along with the security guards.

I write all of this because your household help can undo in an instant, even unwittingly, all of the security associated with gated compounds, guards, alarm systems, and so on. What should you do?

  1. Instruct all workers not to answer the telephones in the house. That’s why God invented voice mail and answering machines.
  2. If you send them out on errands, remind them not to talk about your household or private information. Consider sending them out in pairs.
  3. Get to know your neighbors. No matter what security you have, neighbors keeping an eye on your home are the most effective defense you could have.
  4. Instruct your household to verify any claims of accidents, etc. Remember that hospitals, while requiring advance payment, normally will accept a deposit or make arrangements. Verify the identity of people claiming to work at a hospital.
  5. Let your help know that this is a scam, and not magic or enchantment. This might seem straightforward, but the claims of magic and talk around the subdivision really screwed up the police investigation. Cops need real information: Not magical nonsense.

JohnM

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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Heidi
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Heidi

I believe this is what happened to my cousin’s son in Manila. Now I see he was conned out of his brand new cell phone and wallet, and my cousin explained that he was a victim of voodoo hypnotism as told her by her son. They all believed him when he said he couldn’t remember what happend, that he was hypnotized. I was visiting at the time and didn’t understand it. Thanks for the article. Very interesting and should serve as a warning.

John Miele
Guest

Heidi: He was most likely embarrassed that he was conned. Knowing this goes on takes the mystery away.

Gary Wigle
Guest
Gary Wigle

Looks like it is time to talk to the maid. Thanks for the “heads up” John.

John Miele
Guest

Gary: Yep… That would be a good idea.

hudson
Guest
hudson

Thanks for putting the word out John. Last year I got an e-mail from some girl in Africa somewhere (I forget) But she started the first e-mail telling me that she was in trouble. Several e-mails later the full story was that her boy friend who was also her boss had beat her, and he was now in jail. She did manage to get a suitcase full of money, but he had hid her passport. However she could get out of the country if I were to wire her some money. I told her to make her way to the… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

Hudson: Makes you wonder how many people get taken. The problem with this scam is that it targets others in your household… Something that you really have little control over.

Randy W.
Guest
Randy W.

Hudson

Africa is full of scammers. Nigeria and Ghanna are the primary countries for these scammers. I’ve dealt with them before. Chances are the female you were e-mailing with wasn’t even a female. Most of the time they are males that are actually doing the scam. I really don’t trust anything out of africa.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Randy: I’ve done business all over the world… Except there. Too many ways to lose money, and reliable partners there are few and far between.

rebecca Ferry
Guest
rebecca Ferry

John, This kind of scam or criminal activities really happening, thank’s for the warning, my cousin and my neighbor are both victims of this hypnotism, my neighbor’s children are OFW’s in ABU DHABI and every months she recieved her remittances from her children, she had 4 children working there and at the time she widthraw P 60 k , the moment she took her money from the ATM machine there’s a guy approached her and the next thing she knew the money was gone, she said she remember someone push her and when she look at him everything seems black… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

Rebecca: I question whether or not they are really hypnotized. I think once they realize that it is a scam, they tend to feel at fault. Since people here tend to believe in magic and hypnotism, it really isn’t that farfetched.

Dave Bennett
Guest
Dave Bennett

Really good article John. Very good information. We sent one of our helpers to pay a bill once and she came back with the “Hypnotized” story. It was only a 1000 pesos or so but it still hurt to lose it. The Filipinos are a bit superstitious. My wife who should know better saw this guy staring at us in the mall and got sick the same day. She told me that he was a witch and had probably hexed her. He was creepy looking. I put a reverse hex on the guy and she got better. Well maybe going… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Dave: Agree… When Rebecca and I first met, her boss supposedly put a curse on her. I dealt with that by a visit to the Church and getting a holy card. I told her that Catholic prayers were far more powerful than pagan or infidel magic. She had to agree.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

Good article John. One can never be too vigilant, as there seems to be more and more scams appearing everywhere.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Anthony: Thank you.

Edward Griffin
Guest
Edward Griffin

Excellent article, John, my fellow North Carolinean! I will pass this on to my friends there. I was burned by a young lady over four years on MySpace. I only submitted basic info. The following day I received an interest from this young girl from another state. My first thought was “a cry for help.” A few days later, the subject of her e-mail, “Cry for Help.” Long story, short, this cost me much money and years to repay the money I borrowed to get this girl out of Nigeria. When in actuality it was con-men behind the scenes. I… Read more »

sugar
Guest
sugar

John – Text scams also prevalent. Sometimes, I wonder how people get private phone numbers.

@Ed – Letter from wife of ex pres… wow, scammers will result to anything. When a girl asks for money, be suspicious, I suppose.

PaulK
Member

Hi John – You had me mesmerized for a moment. At least, that’s what I’ll say when asked by the authorities!
😉

Mark G
Guest
Mark G

Interesting article John. I get 4 or 5 similar emails a day at my work email. At one time there was an email address at the FBI that you could forward them to. That has evolved into a webpage where there is a rather lengthy form to fill. I don’t know about you but if I were to spend a good portion of my day filling out this form my boss wouldn’t be very happy! Instead I started forwarding the emails to the local FBI office. After a month or so I got an email from them directing me the… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

Mark: Thank you… I think it is mostly in the cities. In the provincial towns, people generally know their neighbors and their business pretty well.

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