Coronavirus fuels cyber fraud epidemic – BusinessWorld

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By Luz Wendy T. Noble, reporter

PAMELA SAMIA, 54, lost £ 145,000 after an unauthorized withdrawal from her ATM account in January.

“You’d think your money is safe because it’s in a bank,” she said on the phone. “I didn’t find out about the payout until a week later because I don’t do online banking. I was also afraid of being hacked if I went digital. “

Ms. Samia said she planned to buy lots where they would bury her mother’s ashes and donate the rest of the money to a hospital that took care of her when she caught the coronavirus last year.

They have to wait.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased spending at all levels of the global economy, from online shopping to trillion-dollar stimulus packages. Criminals want some of the money.

And as more people work from home, spam messages multiplied 220 times between February and March last year, while malicious URLs – links leading to malware downloads or scams – nearly quadrupled, according to cybersecurity firm Trend Micro .

Of the 20,000 consumer complaints received by the Central Bank of Philippines last year, 13% related to fraudulent, unauthorized transactions involving deposits, credit cards, e-money services and wire transfers. The most involved fraudsters, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said at a recent briefing.

Even powerful politicians are not exempt from this. In January, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian discovered that his credit card had been used to purchase approximately one million pesos worth of liquor through Foodpanda.

Mr Gatchalian said UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. has been very responsive since the fraud. Based on the bank’s investigation, the perpetrator changed the senator’s contact number – which was used to authorize credit card transactions – by calling the bank pretending to be him.

“That’s the funny thing, it wasn’t IT-related at all,” he said on the phone. “That was just a scam.”

“It’s difficult for people like us – officials and public figures – because our information is scattered across the Internet,” the legislature said. “If you’re resourceful enough, I’ll give you my information – my middle name, what high school I went to, and my phone number.”

The senator turned to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) while UnionBank was tapping the police to track down the perpetrator.

Jose Paolo G. Rufo, chief information security officer at UnionBank, said they regularly review policies and procedures to keep their customers safe. Consumers should also exercise due care and vigilance towards cyber criminals, he said in an email.

“The security of our customers is our top priority and we have invested heavily in measures designed to secure all of their online and mobile banking transactions and to respond to cyber security incidents and fraud in the digital space,” said Rufo .

NEWLY INVENTED FRAUD
Users are more likely to trust the technology today than they did a year ago, said Trend Micro researcher Fernando Merces and spokeswoman Erin Johnson in a report posted on the company’s website.

“Since the pandemic began, devices and apps have been integral tools for school, work, shopping and even keeping in touch with friends and family,” they said. “All aspects of life have become a bit more digital.”

But criminals have also adapted through digitization. “Scammers took advantage of the rise in online commerce and payments, and also targeted heavily at businesses and shoppers who embarked on new ways of doing business,” they said.

Victims around the world have lost millions to these reinvented scams in online shopping, food delivery, and messaging apps, and government support.

The online platform sellers Lazada and Shopee have many fake shops, many of which sell graphics cards and other high-quality items that are in short supply with 80% discounts. Many of them will try to contact you on Viber and ask you to deposit 10% on their bank accounts before shipping.

A major cyber attack could shake the stability of the banking system. S&P Global Ratings has flagged emerging creditworthiness risks for banks from cyberattacks as soon as they cause financial loss and reputational damage.

“A financial institution overseen by the BSP can rate its cybersecurity defenses as robust, but they can change immediately due to the rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape,” Diokno said at an online briefing. He urged banks to reconsider their cybersecurity spending as more and more users switch to digital transactions.

The central bank supports House Bill 6768 or the Financial Products and Services Consumer Production Act, which Congressmen passed in their third and final reading last June. A counter-draft from the Senate is pending at committee level.

The measure enables regulators to award the financial claims of defrauded consumers. It also imposes fines, suspensions, and penalties on financial service providers who failed to prevent credit card fraud.

The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) said the increase in online transactions during the pandemic had opened up opportunities for fraud.

“As the number of Filipinos resorting to online banking increases, the likelihood of falling victim to cyber fraud also increases,” said a notice posted on its website. “More and more people are now easy prey for identity theft from bank employees via SMS or email.”

Consumers who have been victims of credit card fraud should reach out to their banks and product vendors and file a report to challenge the charges, BAP said. You can also request a fee review within 20 days.

Individuals should also change their personal identification numbers and passwords after an incident. Customers can also apply for a new credit card or register for a new account if they feel unsure, BAP said.

Identity or password theft is responsible for 80% of cyber breaches, said Karrie C. Ilagan, managing director of Cisco Philippines. The work-from-home setup means people are using more gadgets and doing transactions on unsecured networks.

“The attack surface has grown exponentially with the expansion of remote workers, home networks, and unsecured devices, and applications and workloads have become the new vector of attack,” she said in an email.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) found that from March 16 to August 31, 2020, cases such as skimming, phishing and unauthorized transactions accounted for 49% of suspicious transaction reports from covered institutions.

“Just as we have become vigilant in protecting our health from the virus, we must also be vigilant in protecting our hard-earned money and personal information from fraud,” said AMLC managing director Mel Georgie B. Racela in a Viber message.

Unlike powerful politicians – Mr Gatchalian was never billed a million pesos – ordinary consumers are less protected. In May, Ms. Samia received a letter from the Land Bank of the Philippines branch in Malacañang denying her claim.

“Based on research conducted by the bank, there is no compelling evidence that your account was subject to fraud,” read a copy of the letter. “In this context, we regret to inform you that we cannot accept your request for restitution.”

The government bank did not respond to an email and text message requesting comments.

Ms. Samia has appealed the verdict and wants to know who is behind the fraud. “I’m not interested in the money anymore,” she said. “I just want to know who did it. What if they do it all over again? “


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