BSP urges vigilance on digital crimes in lockdown times

Business, Top News

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) urges individuals and businesses alike to exercise vigilance especially now since criminals continue to become more sophisticated even in the digital world.

In a virtual briefing Friday, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said this necessity was highlighted in the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s (AMLC) Analysis of Financial Crimes Trends during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Diokno said suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in the first eight months of 2020 rose by 57% year-on-year, and 29% of these were registered during the lockdown period.

This occurred, he noted, as people turn to electronic financial transactions especially when the government placed Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from mid-March to end-April, and extended to end-May for the National Capital Region (NCR).

The government also disbursed its financial aid to affected sectors through electronic means. He said these transactions do come with risks as cyber criminals continue to learn ways how to bypass regulatory safeguards.

Diokno noted that the AMLC report showed that about 79% of the total STRs from January to August this year are related to fraudulent online activities, child sexual exploitation, and abuse and money mules/pass-through accounts.

STR submissions by electronic money issuers (EMIs) rose by 688%, while submissions by pawnshops and money service businesses (MSBs) increased by 51%.

For electronic banking transactions, STRs rose by 1,680%  for inward fund transfers and by 5,158% for outward fund transfers. Those involving cash cards rose by 580% for cash-in and 197% for cash-out

Diokno said among the reasons for the STR filing are unauthorized account access through skimming and phishing. For these violations alone, he noted, the amount involved in the STR reports reached around P2.7 billion.

An estimated value of P84.5 million was reported in relation to suspected online sexual exploitation of children and related crimes. Reports about money mules or pass-through accounts also reached an estimated amount of P406.9 million.

The AMLC seeks several amendments to the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in a bid to prevent the country from being included in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list.

FATF has recommended several measures to improve the country’s anti-money laundering measures. The review period was originally set to end October this year but was extended to February 1, 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

Diokno expressed hope lawmakers will recognize the importance of several bills now pending in Congress to save the country from being re-included in the gray list, which is an indication of lack of policies and regulations against money laundering.

“We remain optimistic that gray listing can be averted as no less than the President himself has certified the bills as priority over other bills,” Diokno said.

Photo: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno / PCOO

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