Puerto Princesa City restaurant owners and their employees are being warned to be vigilant against a fraudster or hoax caller who would make large food orders, bulk reservations, and attempt to extort money.
The warning was issued Thursday by the managers and operators of food establishments in Puerto Princesa that had been victimized by the hoax caller who posed as Mark Raymund L. Zamora, the resident manager of Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC).
The management of The Gypsy’s Lair Art Cafe, Badjao Seafront Restaurant, and Kinabuch’s Grill and Bar warned that the fraudster can sound really professional and if the staff and personnel of restaurants are not cautious enough, they can become his victims.
Michael Mendoza, chief executive officer of Badjao Seafront Restaurant said that on February 11, his staff received a call from a man who claimed to be Zamora.
The man booked a seat for 18 people for lunch and ordered their dish specialties costing around P40,000. He ordered lobsters, lapu-lapu (grouper), squid, and sinigang, including an expensive 18-year-old Scotch whiskey Chivas Regal which the staff also prepared, believing he was a legitimate customer
“Tapos nagpapa-load pa nga, parang dalawang P1,500 pa ang gusto i-paload. Sabi ko dapat nalaman niyo na kaagad [na manloloko]. Mag-ingat lang at alamin talaga kung sino [ang tumatawag na customer]. Kami ang una [na tinawagan aside from the other two restaurants]. Sana wala na silang mabiktima [pa],” said Mendoza.
Nicole Perez, one of the staff of Badjao Seafront Restaurant, said she verified the man’s food orders to BNC personnel Jecan Jumilla Canaway but he denied that their resident manager made a reservation.
She said the number the poser used in calling them was 0926-608-8622.
“Noong hindi na siya ma-contact, naghanap ako ng contact number ng Berong [Nickel Corporation] kasi nailuto na namin ‘yong ibang pagkain nila. Nakahanap ako sa Facebook, minessage ko tapos nag-reply, mabait naman. Parang nag-panic din sila kasi ginagamit ‘yong pangalan [ni sir Raymund Zamora] sa ganitong transaction. Mabuti na lang noong time na ‘yon kasama niya si sir Raymund at nagmi-meeting sila. Sinabi niya wala silang order. Nagulat sila,” said Perez.
The Gypsy’s Lair Art Café owner Maria Teodora “Dinggot” Prieto said the same number and identity was used by the fraudster who ordered food from them amounting to around P32,000.
Just like what the man did to the Badjao Seafront Restaurant, he also ordered Chivas Regal. Prieto said the transaction with them was made also on February 11 around 9:30 a.m.
“Nagpakilala siyang si Mark Raymund Zamora, resident manager ng Berong Nickel [Corporation]. Nagpa-reserve siya for 18 pax and then sabi niya the reason why siya mismo ang tumatawag is mga big boss nila ‘yong darating so gusto niya perfect daw. Hindi naman ako nag-isip ng iba for bigger companies na suki naman namin. Normally kasi ‘yan either upon arrival or before leaving for the airport. Nag-preorder siya ‘yong bestsellers ang pinili niya,” said Prieto.
Prieto, who received the call from El Nido, instructed her staff to purchase the whiskey from a liquor store.
The hoax caller, Prieto said, even asked for the number of her staff who will make the purchase for clearer instructions.
The fraudster was able to convince her staff to send him the P1,000.
She said it was only after so many hours of waiting that they realized they have been scammed by the man.
“Pumunta ka sa [office ng] Globe [at] ipa-trace mo ‘yong number, [sabi ko sa staff ko]. Na-trace sa South Cotabato. Kapag tinatawagan, hindi na sumasagot. The worst part is parang it is tantamount to a cybercrime. Just be vigilant and aware that this is happening and andoon na ‘yong attraction ng potential guests, but there is no other way to do it but to be vigilant and be aware,” said Prieto.
Doris Lamparero, manager of Kinabuch’s Grill and Bar, said the hoax call to them was made on February 19.
The same man identified himself as Zamora, made orders, and also booked for 18 people, said Lamparero.
She said she is familiar with Zamora because he is her close friend and compadre.
Lamparero said she immediately sent a text message to Odette Basaya of BNC, the staff who usually makes the reservation for the company.
But Basaya said Zamora does not personally call to make food orders and book reservations.
“Nagtaka na ako na bakit si pareng Mark [ang tatawag dito para magpa-reserve] ay hindi naman ‘yon tumatawag. Tinext ko si ma’am Odette. Sabi ko, ‘Hi, madam may reservation daw si pareng Mark ngayon. Grupo ba ito ng Berong [Nickel Corporation]?’ ‘Yon ang tanong ko sa kanya. Tapos tumawag na si Ms. Odette sabi niya, ‘Hala buti na lang nag-inform ka sa akin. Hindi ‘yan si Mark. Iyan ‘yong gumagamit ngayon [ng pangalan niya]. May [mga] na-victim na nga [na ibang restaurant,’ sabi niya],” said Lamparero.
After this conversation, Lamparero said they immediately discarded the reservation and alerted their staff.
She said the poser called again around 9:00 p.m. trying to make orders, including the whiskey.
According to Lamparero, she rushed to the tourist police in front of their establishment while the call is ongoing with the aim to entrap the suspect.
“Akin paalala lang, maging maingat sa pagtanggap ng reservations tapos alamin ‘yong taong connected doon. Kumuha ng dalawang contact number ng [mga] taong in-charge sa isang grupo para sure. Kung halimbawa na malaking grupo, humingi ng at least kalahati na deposit ng bayad nila,” said Lamparero
Zamora in a letter sent to Palawan News on Wednesday denied that he was the man making orders and reservations.
He said his name is being “falsely used” and restaurants should be careful around the city.
“Unless coursed through appropriate channels, listed phone numbers, and/or established credit lines, this office and the BNC management shall never request for funds or other monetary contributions through random phone calls or messages,” said Zamora.