Online financial fraud cost consumers P540-M in 2021, BSP says

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2022 06:53 PM

MANILA - Online fraud cost consumers around P540 million in 2021 alone, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said on Monday as it called on lawmakers to approve a bill meant to protect financial consumers. 

From 2020-2021, there were 42,456 complaints from victims of phishing, identity theft, malware attacks, and other types of fraud targetting people in online financial transactions, the BSP said. 

“A majority of these have been deemed closed. But the process was long and arduous. And for many complaints, the resolutions were unfavorable to the consumer,” Diokno told the senators.

While consumers flocked to online banking, online payments and other digital financial services during the pandemic, there was also a spike in online fraud, Diokno said. 

The BSP said that from 2019 to 2020: 

-    Hacking and malware attack surged by 2,324 percent
-    Phishing and other social engineering schemes increased by 302 percent
-    Identity theft or account take-over rose by 2.5 percent

“The top three cybercrimes in 2020 were first, account takeover or identity theft; second, phishing and other social engineering schemes; and third, card-not-present fraud,” Diokno added.

In 2021 meanwhile, complaints related to the use of internet and mobile banking accounted for 45.2 percent of the complaints received by the BSP, according to Diokno.

“Hackers and scammers took advantage of the digital infrastructure, and consumer vulnerability to perpetrate crime,” he said.

Diokno said passing the Financial Consumer Protection Act will help curb the scams. 

The BSP, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Thrift Banks, Insurance Commission, Philippine Stocks Exchange, and other groups, are all backing the proposal, he said. 

“The FCPA will protect every Juan and Maria making financial transactions. Whether they are making deposits to save for their children’s education, taking a loan to grow their businesses, sending money to friends and family, or paying goods online,” Diokno told the Senate Public Services Committee.
 
The FCPA seeks to grant the BSP “quasi-judicial” power to receive, hear and decide on the public’s complaints on online frauds.

Under the current system, the BSP is only limited to receiving complaints, but the investigation lies with the banks or financial institutions concerned.

Victor Dimagiba, president of Laban Konsyumer Inc said the BSP lacked the authority to decide on the cases. 

“Ang haba-haba po ng acknowledgement Financial Consumer Group ng BSP pag may consumer complaints po kayong ine-endorse. Ang ganda-ganda, the way it is written. Pero sa dulo po nun, ang sasabihin lang sa inyo ng Bangko Sentral, ie-endorse po namin itong inyong complaint dito sa bangkong ito X. Pag in-endorse na po kay Bank X, matutulog na po yun dun,” Dimagiba pointed out.

(The BSP Financial Consumer Group will write a very long, well-written acknowledgment of the complaint. But in the end, the central bank will simply tell you that your complaint will be endorsed to Bank X. After it’s endorsed to Bank X, the complaint sleeps there.)

“These cases will be resolved once the FCP Act is in place. This Act will empower financial regulators, such as BSP, the Insurance Commission, the SEC and the Cooperative Development Authority to expedite the adjudication of reasonable monetary claims more efficiently, fairly and openly, all to the benefit of the consumers,” Diokno stressed.

Dimagiba appealed to senators to ensure the bill’s enactment into law before the 18th Congress ends this June, in protection to the public. 

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