THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) is supporting a measure that looks to protect the public from fraudsters that target bank accounts and e-wallets.

The central bank said it backs the immediate passage of Senate Bill 2380 or the Bank Account, E-wallet, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act.

“Amid the rise in online transactions during the pandemic, the bill is also expected to strengthen confidence in use of electronic payments and promote the country’s financial stability,” the BSP said in a statement on Saturday.

The proposed measure prohibits the usage of bank accounts and e-wallets as money mules for suspicious activities.

It likewise identifies social engineer schemes as illicit activities. Deception in order to manipulate individuals into sharing their sensitive information could in turn be used to access their financial accounts, whether or not such schemes result in monetary loss on the part of the victim.

The measure also identifies economic sabotage as a major offense. Illicit activities carried out by a syndicate or through a large scale scheme will be classified under this offense.

“The legislative measure will strengthen the country’s legal framework for financial consumer welfare and foster greater public awareness on cybersecurity,” the central bank said.

Under the bill, persons found guilty of using accounts as money mules will be penalized with fines of P100,000 to P200,000, or face prision correccional (six months and one day to six years), or both.

Meanwhile, suspects found guilty of social engineering schemes will face penalties of P200,000 to P500,000, imprisonment of prision mayor (six years and one day to 12 years), or both. 

Finally, it slaps life imprisonment and a fine of P1 million to P5 million on persons found guilty of economic sabotage.

“By strictly penalizing money mules and social engineering schemes, this measure seeks to ensure that the hard-earned money of the public is kept safe, and that public trust and confidence in our current financial system are maintained as it continues to innovate and traverse through cyberspace,” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said in the introductory note for the bill.

The bill was filed on Sept. 6.

House Bill 9615, which is a counterpart measure of the Senate bill, was filed on June 14. It remains pending with the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries since July 28.

Last year, the BSP received about 20,000 financial consumer complaints, most of which were about fraud and unauthorized financial transactions. — Luz Wendy T. Noble