Don’t Be A Victim: The Balikbayan Box Scam

Aside from remittances, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) love to send packages, fondly called by others as a balikbayan box. It is common for the family or friends of an OFW to receive huge boxes containing goods such as chocolates, clothes, toys, jewelries, appliances, etc. It is usually sent when there are special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and during the holiday season.

One of the most crucial decisions Filipinos abroad make in sending balikbayan boxes to the Philippines is choosing a freight forwarder. There are various methods on how to send it and of course the cost differs. One thing that is sure though is the fact that cargo services are not cheap.

However despite the high cost of this service, there can be cases when a cargo company will not be able to deliver the package on time or there will be missing or broken items. Worse, there are cases of balikbayan boxes not being delivered at all. So it pays to be meticulous when it comes to balikbayan box companies. There may be a lot of cargo forwarders offering their services to OFWs, but always ask yourself — can you trust them?

Here are some tips to ensure that a freight forwarding company is legitimate:

The freight forwarding company should have a license and is registered with the government. To check the status of a freight company, you can visit the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) website to check if they have an Ocean Transport Intermediaries (OTI) license.

The FMC is an independent federal agency that is tasked to regulate oceanborne transportation in the foreign commerce of America. However, since it is a US agency, it only monitors certain activities of international shipping lines, marine terminals operators and ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs) that operate in the U.S. foreign commerce. So even if it is a legitimate freight forwarding company, it is possible for you not to find them in the FMC list.

If you do not see the freight forwarding company in the FMC website, you can then inquire at the Department of Trade of Industry because it should have at least one storage office in the country. You can also check at the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau, the agency where freight forwarders get their accreditation. Their contact details are provided below:

Philippine Shippers’ Bureau
Department of Trade and Industry
5F Trade and Industry Building
361 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City
Tel. nos.: (6-32)751-0384 local 2512/2513; (6-32)751-3304; (6-32)890-4892
Fax No.: (6-32)751-3305

Do a little research by checking the background of the company such as their profile and history. You can search the internet for some feedbacks/testimonials regarding their services. You may also do some research to see if the company has many customer complaints.

Take note of the contact details of the company you are dealing with. They should have an office so know their company address, telephone numbers, etc. You should also have a contact person in case you want to inquire about the delivery of your package.

You can also ask for the opinion /advice of other OFWs. It is recommended to seek the advice of people than be lured by commercial advertisements. Ask your colleagues about their experience with a certain cargo company or ask them to recommend a company that delivers quality service.

When you pay for the cargo services, always ask for an official receipt because this is your proof that they have received money from you. Keep the official receipt as you may need it later on.


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