Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill seeking to penalize individuals who willingly allow themselves to be used as money mules, those who engage in social engineering schemes, and other fraudulent financial schemes.

Aligned with the administration’s commitment to expand digital transactions, safeguarding the public from scammers and abusive online lenders, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 2407, known as the Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act. “We need to protect the integrity of the country’s financial system and ensure that financial accounts and their owners are protected and are not exploited or lured by cybercriminals or criminal syndicates into the commission of an unlawful or fraudulent activity,” Gatchalian emphasized as he filed the proposed measure.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of cashless transactions and digital payments. However, given the rapid growth and popularity of digital financial services, the rise of financial-related cybercrimes followed. “Cybercriminals started taking advantage of technologies to transfer illicit or stolen funds across digital financial services, stealing vital information about account holders and taking over their accounts, or enticing account holders with gifts and incentives with the goal of covertly committing financial crimes,” he said.

In response to the increasing prevalence of such malevolent activities, the legislator stressed the pressing need to enact a measure that imposes penalties on individuals who willingly become conduits for illicit transactions, those who engage in manipulative social engineering tactics and other deceitful schemes that exploit financial accounts. This encompasses actions such as account takeover, recruiting or enlisting others to commit these acts, and perpetration of these acts on a significant scale comparable to economic sabotage that jeopardizes the security of Filipinos’ financial accounts and the integrity of the country’s financial system.

“For the past 3 years, the unsuspecting public lost millions of their hard-earned money to these cybercriminals,” Gatchalian said, citing as an example the “Mark Nagoyo” scam, in which more than 700 BDO Unibank customers’ accounts were hacked in late 2021, the unauthorized bank transfers that targeted government teachers with Landbank accounts in January last year in which the victims lost between P26,000 to P121,000 from the incident and the massive phishing incident involving GCash users in May this year.

“Operations of cybercriminals grew on a large scale, taking advantage of the unemployed, those who are looking for easy money, those who are unaware, and those who are willing to help others, and thriving in jurisdictions with very weak enforcements and penalties like the Philippines,” he noted. In fact, Kaspersky Security Network’s 2022 Report showed that the Philippines ranked 2nd among countries most attacked by web threats in 2022 and the most preferred attack method which includes social engineering schemes. (AI/MNM