PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. have expressed their support for two proposed bills that will strengthen the country’s current laws on cybercrime and imprison individuals who act as “mules” in the commission of cybercrimes.
Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT and Smart president and chief executive officer, yesterday committed the integrated telco’s full support behind House Bill 7393 or the Anti-Financial Scamming Act, and the counterpart Senate Bill (SB) 2039 or the Anti-Mule and Financial Fraud Act of 2023.
The former penalizes any person who acts as a money mule or performs social engineering schemes, which are considered as a form of economic sabotage when carried out by a group of three or more persons.
SB 2039 further expands the punishable acts to include those who engage other persons to act as money mules. Phishing and account takeover are part of the prohibited acts.
In both proposed bills, money mules include those who sell, buy or lend e-wallets or other financial accounts, as well as those who register e-wallets or other financial accounts using a fictitious name or stolen identity to perpetrate a crime.
Social engineering schemes refer to the use of deception to falsely represent oneself as part of a legitimate institution to obtain sensitive and confidential personal information with fraudulent intent.
“We commend our lawmakers for discerning that consumer protection is allied with access, connectivity, and speed in the nation’s digitalization strategy. Since every internet user is vulnerable to cyberattacks that target our identity and our finances, protection by the State is equally vital to getting more Filipinos to maximize the opportunities that the internet can offer,” Panlilio said.
Based on figures provided by the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, online fraud incidents in Metro Manila alone rose from 1,551 in the first half of 2022 to 4,446 in the first half of 2023, or an increase of 186 percent.
A report from the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission said based on the digital forensic investigation of the subscriber identity modules (SIM) confiscated in scam hubs, unscrupulous individuals have been selling their registered prepaid SIMs with verified e-wallet accounts for use in various cybercrime activities.
PLDT and Smart have been ramping up efforts to protect customers from cybercrimes.
To date, PLDT and Smart’s Cyber Security Operations Group has prevented more than 478 million SMShing messages from reaching customers, blocked more than 28 billion attempts to open malicious domain and also blocked more than 614,000 mobile numbers found to have been involved in fraudulent activities.