POLICY MAKERS, private stakeholders and financial consumers need to take extra steps to manage fraud risks amid the surge in digital transactions due to the pandemic, experts said.

In a BusinessWorld Insights session on Thursday, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela and Kaspersky General Manager for Southeast Asia Yeo Siang Tiong discussed how to address fraud during this time.

“Legislators as well as policy makers need to continue educating ourselves. We need to learn how frauds are being undertaken nowadays,” Mr. Racela said, noting money launderers have taken advantage of the pandemic.

The AMLC chief said boosting partnerships with foreign regulatory counterparts is also instrumental in fraud management.

“They may already have the solutions to the problems that we are encountering. Our foreign partners, they are able to share their experience, so it is also beneficial to us,” he said.

Mr. Racela presented the results of AMLC’s COVID-19 Financial Crime Trend Analysis and Typology Brief during the session, which showed nearly half (49%) of suspicious transaction reports from March 16 to Aug. 31 last year were related to skimming, phishing, and unauthorized transactions.

These transactions had an estimated value of P2.7 billion, but Mr. Racela said unreported cases mean these may have been higher in value.

Last year, the central bank received about 20,000 complaints from financial consumers, of which the bulk were about fraud and unauthorized transactions.

As criminals equip themselves with digital tools, regulators also need to invest in technology to protect financial consumers and institutions against fraud, Mr. Racela said.

For his part, Kaspersky’s Mr. Yeo noted that cybercriminals found more avenues to attack due to the work-from-home situation as people use various websites, social media platforms, and streaming devices. He echoed Mr. Racela’s call for international cooperation, saying cybercrime knows no borders.

“What this means is that the attack surface for the cybercriminal has increased a lot. What is important is that we know how to keep safe, for ourselves, for the company that we work with, and also the community,” he said.

Mr. Yeo also urged Filipinos to be careful about their transactions, especially as Holy Week draws near, as trends show cybercriminals plot attacks over holidays.

“This may be Holy Week for the Philippines but it’s not a holiday for other countries. What that means is they will work because it is a good time to strike,” he said.

Both speakers also emphasized the need for continuous education and awareness as fraudsters step up their game in a fast-changing, technology-driven world that is still in crisis. — Luz Wendy T. Noble