PHISHING will soon be added to the list of crimes in the Philippines thanks to a proposed bill that will give the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) law enforcement powers.
In a recent briefing, BSP Senior Assistant Governor and General Counsel (SAGGC) Elmore O. Capule said Senator Mark A. Villar gave his assurance that the Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act (Afasa) will be fast tracked.
Capule said the provisions of this new law will allow the BSP to investigate by looking into deposits, something that is not part of BSP’s powers nor under the scope of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“As a matter of fact, last week we had another committee hearing in the Senate. And it’s favorable. Even the industry is supporting it. So according to Senator Mark Villar, his committee will fasttrack this,” Capule said. “Because they realized that it is a law whose time has already come. So if it passes to the Senate after they go to second reading and then third reading.”
APART from investigating, the Afasa would authorize the BSP to apply for cybercrime warrants and orders as well as request the assistance of the PNP in the investigation of these cases. The bill has been certified as urgent by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac).
“The bill, likewise, includes a limited authority to examine and investigate financial accounts, e-wallets, and other financial accounts that are involved in the prohibited acts,” Capule’s presentation stated. “[This] shall be exempt from the existing bank secrecy laws as well as data privacy laws to be able to gather sufficient information in relation to thr commission of the prohibited acts under the bill.”
In a separate presentation, BSP Director of the Consumer Protection and Market Conduct Office Director Charina De Vera-Yap said the central bank has received over 30,000 complaints as of September 2023.
“Majority of the complaints are regarding e-money but its mostly on account management [such as] they cannot access their accounts, they forget their passwords, and how to access their accounts,” De Vera-Yap said.
Capule said the Afasa is a crucial piece of legislation given that phishing was named one of the top three cybersecurity threats in 2022.
This is based on data from the complaints filed with the BSP Consumer and Market Conduct Office and reports of crimes and losses with the Financial Supervision Sector.
Phishing, its variations
THE top cybersecurity incident was phishing and its variations, which accounted for complaints covering 6,595 incidents and an amount of P623 million. This was followed by card not present or fraud which accounted for 5,211 of the incidents which involved an amount of P467 million.
The third top cybersecurity incident was account takeover or identity theft covering 3,104 incidents amounting to P409 million.
“It is important because we are the only country where we do not allow the banking regulator to look into bank deposits when there are issues against the owners. So we don’t want to have a distinction,” Capule told reporters.
Last week, the presiding chairman of the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, Senator Villar, successfully steered the discussions on three Senate Resolutions, six Senate Bills, and one House Bill, collectively called the Afasa.
Villar was quoted in a statement as saying he found “a dramatic rise in cyber financial crimes such as online selling scams, investment scams, loan scams, and love scams among others.”
Reiterating the need for a legislative measure that not only provides for a penalty after the fact, Villar stressed that what is also needed is “one that effectively responds to or even prevents criminals from facilitating these scams.”
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