Solon hopes signing new bill will deter use of financial mules

As the Philippines has become one of the countries most exposed to web threats, a top lawmaker says local regulators and law enforcement would be better equipped with more powers to root out cybercriminals involved in phishing and other online scams.

According to Luis Raymund Villafuerte, the long-awaited enactment of a congressional bill on better protection for financial consumers “could not have come at a more appropriate time than now when the Philippines, in a report by the cybersecurity and data provider Kaspersky Security Network antivirus [KSN]has been labeled as one of the countries most targeted by web threats.

Local banks have also advised their customers to avoid giving access to their accounts to third parties, as this act, known as “money mulling”, is a crime punishable under anti-money laundering law. because it allows cybercriminals to use those bank accounts to transfer funds from illegal sources, Villafuerte said in a statement over the weekend.

Fraudsters and scammers are offering between 1,000 and 5,000 pesos to buy or use people’s legitimate bank accounts which they then use to launder money, the lawmaker added.

Villafuerte is the co-author of the congressional bill now awaiting President Duterte’s signature that imposes penalties against money mulling and phishing or any other social engineering scheme.

He said cybercriminals have thrived under the pandemic as social distancing protocols have dramatically increased the volume of online transactions to avoid face-to-face interactions.

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

Although banks have stepped up their efforts to combat cybercrimes and consumers have also become increasingly vigilant against such offences, Villafuerte said the Philippines still has no law against the use of financial accounts. as accessories to financial crimes.

“Worse still, no sanction can deter these criminal actions,” said Villafuerte, an advocate for the country’s digital switchover even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Villafuerte said Filipinos will soon benefit from this congressional measure which aims to empower Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the rest of the banking community to better protect financial consumers against phishing and other online scams.

“We hope that President Duterte will sign this measure into law as it aims to regulate the use of electronic bank accounts and wallets and to consider certain illegal financial acts related to their use as a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime s ‘They’re being committed on a large scale,’ Villafuerte said.

In January, reports from the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) claimed that around 20 to 40 teachers had lost between P26,000 and P121,000 each from their allegedly “hacked” LandBank accounts, but the lender claimed its systems were safe and secure and that these teachers had in fact fallen prey to a phishing scheme.

Also last January, three Filipinos and a Nigerian were indicted by the DOJ over the hacking attack that left around 700 bank customers in early December who allegedly lost up to P50,000 each due to unauthorized transfers since their bank accounts.

Villafuerte said the bill prohibits opening a bank account, e-wallet account or other financial account in a fictitious name or using identity or identification documents. others to receive, transfer or withdraw proceeds derived from crimes or misdemeanors.

The measure also seeks to penalize anyone carrying out phishing or social engineering schemes by imposing a life sentence and a fine of 1 to 5 million pesos on those convicted of computer offenses that constitute economic sabotage.

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