Home Banking & Finance Accounts used for money mule schemes increasing amid rise in online transactions

Accounts used for money mule schemes increasing amid rise in online transactions

AN OFFICIAL of Bank of the Philippine Islands said money mule accounts have increased as perpetrators take advantage of rising online transactions. — PICKAWOOD/UNSPLASH

MONEY MULE accounts in the country have been increasing in the past two years as culprits have taken advantage of the rising use of online transactions, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) said.

“As we shifted to a more digital lifestyle, we made it more convenient for legitimate clients to be on-boarded, to be accepted in the financial industry. Now this is where those criminal minds saw an opportunity and say, ‘Maybe I can create digital accounts that can be used as a mule account,’” BPI Chief Digital Officer Noel A. Santiago said in a statement.

Money mules are tapped for transfers of illicit money on behalf of someone else, Mr. Santiago said.

“They are usually used as conduits by criminals so that they can launder big sum of money acquired from crimes like online scams, human trafficking, drug trafficking, among others,” he added.

In some cases, Mr. Santiago said criminals would approach victims to borrow accounts to receive remittances.

“They make the story and the delivery so compelling and attractive. Some accounts are being sold for thousands of pesos for usage,” he said in the statement.

Previously, people went to bank branches to submit their identification documents and transact, a “natural deterrent” for committing a crime or fraud, he noted.

The bank official said unbanked Filipinos are at greater risk of falling for these fraudulent schemes.

Amid the rise in fraud cases, Mr. Santiago said requiring mobile number registration will help in dealing with and prosecuting money mules.

The Senate in December passed on second reading Senate Bill 2395 or the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) Card Registration Act. Its counterpart House Bill 5793 has been passed on final reading at the House of Representatives.

BPI’s net income increased by 3% year on year to P5.657 billion in the third quarter of 2021 amid lower credit provisions, which offset the decline in its interest earnings.

Its shares closed at P94.30 apiece on Wednesday, down by 70 centavos or 0.74% from its previous finish. — L.W.T. Noble