P155 million lost due to scams from Jan to Aug 2023, says PNP-ACG

Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2023 07:02 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2023 07:11 PM

MANILA — At least P155 million were lost due to scams and fraud in the Philippines from January to August 2023, the Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) said on Monday.

In the Senate hearing of the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions, and Currencies for the Anti-Financial Scamming Bill, the PNP-ACG reported the scam methods used against complainants.

Topping its list of most common schemes is online selling scam with 3,600 complaints and P68.8 million money involved.

Among other common scams are investment scams, ATM fraud, phishing, call scam or vishing, and employment scams.

The PNP-ACG admitted that while reporting scams has been more active than ever, some cases cannot be filed in court due to difficulty in identifying fraudsters.

Out of 8,609 complaints lodged to PNP-ACG, only 133 cases were referred to prosecution while 574 cases remain under investigation.

PNP-ACG director Police Brigadier General Sidney Hernia said that upon tracing, some financial accounts are registered under fictitious names.

“Ang investigation kasi ng PNP, aabot sa bangko. Kukuha kami ng info sa bangko at kailangan namin ng cyberwarrant. Sa GCash and other e-wallets, ‘pag nilabas na sa amin ang information, lumalabas na fictitious ang identity. ‘Pag fictitious, we cannot file a case against those personalities. Kailangan kasi makilala namin ang may-ari ng account kasi sa kanya pumapasok ang pera,” Hernia explained. 

The PNP-ACG also raised concerns in offers of financial institutions to consumers to open bank accounts online and without personal appearance.

“Ang opening po kasi ngayon ng bank account, online eh… ’Yong pwedeng makapagrehistro, ‘yong system hindi ganoon ka-efficient, walang algorithm na pwedeng makapag-identify na ‘yon ang tao mismo… You can upload fictitious documents,” Hernia said. 

For the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, financial institutions should adhere to the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) policy which is the standard in establishing and verifying a customer’s identity when opening an account. 

BSP Senior Assistant Governor Elmore Capule reminded financial institutions that they can be held liable if a fictitious account was made through a violation of the KYC rule.

Capule added that the Data Privacy Act hampers investigations when there is a need to look into certain bank accounts.

The BSP is pushing for the Anti-Financial Scamming Bill to establish a “more specific criminal law” in addressing financial frauds through social engineering.

Capule said the AFASA Bill could address gaps in the Financial Consumer Protection Act which is more targeted to administrative and civil cases.

"So if you’re a financial consumer and you file this case, there are additional obligations of institutions and we can look into accounts and it will be ultimately beneficial to the consumer,” Capule said.

Committee chairperson Sen. Mark Villar emphasized the need to establish a regulatory framework that penalizes scammers.

“The Philippines has the potential to be an economic powerhouse and we cannot compromise this potential because of the loss of trust to our financial institutions because of online fraud,” Villar said.