As online scams jump, Pinoys urged to practice cyberhygiene

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is urging Filipinos to practice cyberhygiene as cybercriminals continue to take advantage of the shift in consumer behavior amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his message during the 2021 BSP Youth Summit yesterday, BSP Deputy Governor Mamerto Tangonan said data from the Anti Cybercrime Group of the Philippines showed a 37 percent jump in online scams to 869 cases from January to September last year from 633 in the same period in 2019.

“We emphasize foremost that cybersecurity is not the responsibility of only one person. The user, financial institution, and the regulator, each have their own responsibilities and there must be collaborative effort between and among them,” Tangonan said.

Tangonan said   the BSP continues to work with industry partners to prevent cyberthreats, while BSP-supervised financial institutions comply with the strict regulations on cybersecurity.

Furthermore, Tangonan said Circular   1089, or the payment systems oversight framework, requires banks and financial institutions to comply with consumer protection and information security regulations.

He cited the joint statement issued by major business groups led by the Makati Business Club, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others urging law enforcement agencies to act swiftly in identifying, apprehending and bringing the culprits to justice.

Tangonan said the business groups cited a study conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures that the impact of cybercrime is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025 from the projected $6 trillion this year.

Most common scams include phishing, smishing, vishing, while other online fraud schemes target bank clients, credit card holders, e-wallet accounts, online shopping and other users of online financial services

“They (cybercriminals) try to find weakness on the part of the users. This underscores the importance for users to have the knowledge and the ability to protect themselves from fraudulent online transactions,” Tangonan said.

To protect themselves against cybercriminals, Tangonan said consumers should create and use strong passwords, keep their personal and account information private, activate two-step verification process, and enable text or email alerts for account activity.

Furthermore, Tangonan said consumers should also transact only with legitimate and trustworthy online merchants, keep transaction records and regularly review their transaction history, report suspicious account activity to their banks, and stay vigilant in protecting their account from hackers, scammers as well as fraudsters.

With the COVID-19 pandemic serving as catalysts to increased adoption of digital payment by consumers and merchants, the United Nations-backed Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) said the share of electronic payments increased further to 17 percent as of the first half of 2020 from 14 percent in end 2019 in terms of volume and to 25 percent from 24 percent in terms of value.

BSP Assistant Governor Edna Villa said the target could be achieved sooner than the original 2023 target.

“We have a ways to go to reach 50 percent. But I think because of what we have seen in the experience under the pandemic, people have actually embraced digital payments and digital financial transactions. I believe that preference is already cemented and it will become even just more prevalent going forward,” Villa said.

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