Philippines Sees Surge in Financial Scams During Pandemic

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask and a face shield uses his smartphone at a bus terminal in Quezon City, Philippines on August 22, 2020. (Photo by Lisa Marie David/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask and a face shield uses his smartphone at a bus terminal in Quezon City, Philippines on August 22, 2020. (Photo by Lisa Marie David/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Ditas Lopez

Suspicious transactions reports received by the Philippines’ anti-money laundering body rose 57% in January to August from a year ago amid the wide use of digital platforms during the pandemic, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said on Friday.

About 29% of the total reports occurred from mid-March when movement restrictions were imposed to combat COVID-19, Diokno said, citing a study conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which he heads.

Suspicious transaction reports related to electronic banking transactions grew by 1,680% for inward fund transfers and 5,158% for outward fund transfers, the study showed. Reports from electronic money issuers increased by 688%; and from pawnshops and money service businesses by 51%.

Unauthorized account access through skimming and phishing, and other violations of the Electronic Commerce Act, with estimated value of 2.7 billion pesos ($56 million) was among the the top three reasons why the reports were filed. The other top reasons were online sexual exploitation of children and related crimes, and suspected money mules.

Diokno said other red flags include fraud related to solicitation of COVID-19 donations, online shopping swindling involving Bitcoin, unsubstantiated deposits or fund transfer for products and services, receipts of large deposits, and small-value and fast-moving funds to multiple account holders with immediate cash-outs but with no underlying justification.

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