Safety & Security

Crime Modus Operandi: ‘Budol-budol’

BY: Nick Torre III • Oct 09, 2019

Lately, I again read in police reports the occurrence of “budol budol” not only in Manila but also in far away provinces as well.  The scheme is not new yet people still fall for it.  It is actually almost absurd yet people get victimized again and again. So how is this scheme done?

The first step of the perpetrators is to spot the potential victim.  They do this to ensure that the victim has the money, which is their target after all!  Thus, spotters can be seen loitering near ATMs, supermarket checkout counters, and other areas where people need to show their money.  The bad guys (and gals) had this knack for picking out people who are alone and they assess to be not assertive enough.  It is for this reason that many victims of “budol budol” are women.

After the target is selected, the next step is the approach.  Here, a role player gets the attention of the victim, usually by asking for help for some legitimate endeavor such as looking for a truck to transport some goods from one place to another, a store where something can be bought in large quantities such as paint, and the like.   The role player is usually another woman, middle-aged, well dressed, and well mannered.  At this juncture, the purpose of the perpetrators is really not to get the help of the victim but rather, plant the idea and condition her brain for the next step.  Normally, the victim declines the request and simply walks away, which is the expected reaction.  Unknown to the victim, another co-conspirator is now shadowing her and watching where she goes next.  This co-conspirator is usually a male person who pretends not to know the other conspirator.

The next step is the most crucial:  the offer.  When the perpetrators determine where the victim will pass through, the two conspirators will position themselves along her route and pretend to have a conversation.  Usually, the male person will be holding some valuables such as wads of cash, money, and jewelry to get the attention of the victim.  When the victim passes by, the woman will again ask for her help for the same purpose.  This time however, the male partner will pitch in and help the woman convince the victim.  All the while, he is flashing his valuables to show to the victim that he is well off and moneyed himself.  The direction of the conversation is always towards helping the woman.

The last step before the perpetrators escape is the take away.  After a few convincing and hustling, the male perpetrator will take out a bag or pouch and put all his valuables in there.  He does this in front of the victim and asks the latter to do the same, explaining that this is his assurance that he will be back with the help that they woman is asking for.  He will then ask the victim to hold the bag and wait for him as he accompanies the woman to the place where help can be found.  When the perpetrators leave, that is the last time that the victim will ever see them.  When she checks the bag left to her, all she will find are trash and worthless paper cut to look like money thus the term “budol budol.”

So why does this scheme work so effectively time and time again?  The main explanation I see when I interview victims is that Filipinos are naturally a hospitable people and that “nakakahiya” trait is still at work for some. When asked why did the problem of another person suddenly become her concern, the usual reply of victims is “Nakakahiya na hindi pansinin.”  This is the trait exploited by the bad guys to make the initial connection with the victim.

Another trait exploited by the perpetrators is greed.  During the course of the conversation, the woman repeatedly injects a “commission” for the victim if she will help her.  In the initial contact, the woman simply plants the seed and lets her partner make it grow by flashing his valuables.  The victim is ultimately convinced that she is dealing with moneyed people and her defense usually comes down to the point where she willingly does what the perps asks her to do.  Some victims claim that they were put under a trance or hypnotized at this point but in reality, it is their greed and expectation of easy money clouding their judgment.

So how does one protect herself from such scheme?  The most important defense is awareness.  The perpetrators are professionals and if the victim is clueless of their ways, there is really no doubt of the outcome.  Potential victims need to continuously educate themselves about the latest modus operandi to avoid falling prey to these conmen.  It is worth reminding people again and again that if something is too good to be true, then probably, it isn’t true.  “Greed will bring you no good” is something that needs to be inculcated in one’s values.

The other defense is to develop assertiveness and the ability to say “no” tactfully.  Victims are usually people easily swayed and influenced by others.  Teaching people to “mind their own business” is an effective defense against this scheme.  A crucial component of this modus operandi is taking the cooperation of the victim in the endeavor of the perpetrators.  Victims should recognize the fact that she has no business or obligation whatsoever to help these people that she just met on the street.  There are authorities who can do this and this brings us to the last defense:  the authorities.

Once a potential victim recognizes the scheme, the best defense is to refer the same to the authorities.  Ask a security guard.  Go to a traffic enforcer.  Talk to a policeman.  The last thing that the perps want is another person joining the conversation.  With another party present, the perps cannot concentrate their efforts in convincing the victim.  If this happens, they simply walk away and move to the next target. Just God forbid that the third party that you approach is another conspirator!

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