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Monday, July 22, 2024

‘Noose tightening on cybercriminals’

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The noose will tighten on cybercriminals with the expected enactment of a bill giving the government more powers to combat phishing and other online scams such as those that defrauded BDO Unibank and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) depositors.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, in a statement, said the expected signing into law of an enrolled bill that provides more protection for financial consumers “couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time than now when the Philippines, in a report by cybersecurity and anti-virus provider Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), has been tagged as one of the countries most targeted by web threats.”

Banks have also been advising their clients to avoid giving third parties access to their accounts, given that the illegal act—known as money muling—is punishable under the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Villafuerte was co-author of the enrolled bill now awaiting President Duterte’s signature. It imposes penalties against money muling and phishing or any other social media schemes.

Cybercrimes have reportedly flourished during the pandemic as social distancing protocols dramatically increased the volume of online transactions to avoid face-to-face interactions.

Villafuerte authored House Bill 10141, which was consolidated with other similar measures into a substitute bill that was eventually passed by the House of Representatives.

Villafuerte said “Covid-19 has presented new opportunities for cybercriminal exploitation, including remote work, virtual crime and persistent threats.”

Although banks have increased their efforts in addressing cybercrimes, consumers have also become increasingly vigilant against such offenses.

Villafuerte said the Philippines still has no law against the use of bank accounts as accessory to financial crimes.

“Worse, there is no punishment that can deter these criminal actions,” said Villafuerte, an advocate of the country’s digital switch even prior to the 2020 outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am optimistic that President Duterte will sign this measure into law as it aims to regulate the use of bank accounts and electronic wallets and consider certain illegal financial acts related to their use as a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime if done on a large scale,” Villafuerte said.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the final version of the measure on financial consumer protection before both chambers took a three-month break last February 4 for the national elections on May 9.

“Our ongoing efforts to accelerate the country’s digital switch must be complemented by measures to safeguard consumers against cyber threats and other illegal online schemes,” Villafuerte added. “The recent gains in the digitization of financial services should not result to adverse consequences for our people, especially during this prolonged pandemic.”

Villafuerte said the bill prohibits the opening of a bank account, an e-wallet account or other financial account under a fictitious name or using the identity or identification documents of another to receive or transfer or withdraw proceeds derived from crimes or offenses.

The measure also penalizes any person performing any phishing or social engineering scheme with life imprisonment and a fine of P1 million to P5 million as it declared cybercrimes as economic sabotage.


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