BSP: Despite scams Banking sector remains ‘generally safe’

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) executive Melchor Plabasan, said financial transaction crimes may have increased during the pandemic as more people turned to digital platforms due to movement restrictions, but affected accounts remain negligible.

Plabasan, BSP Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision Department director, said the banking sector remains “generally safe and the chances of you becoming a victim of such incident are very minimal.” 

“We have been checking the number of accounts that have been compromised not only with this incident but some of the phishing incidents and it’s still way, way below 1 percent relative to the total size of the market,” he said in a virtual briefing on Thursday. 

“But we are working with the industry to ensure that the losses will be reimbursed and industry will continuously upgrade its security system,” he said. Recently, around 700 BDO Unibank accounts were victims of hacking incidents and some of the funds were transferred to several Union Bank of the Philippines (Unionbank) accounts. 

Plabasan said they have identified six persons of interest for the crime, and they have submitted the information to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), adding that they have also discovered that some of the proceeds from the fraudulent transactions were transferred to other banks.

“We are also expanding the scope of our investigation because we have surveillance showing that there may be other institutions, other than, of course, Unionbank, which have been used to funnel the stolen funds. So, we also want to get to the bottom of that particular issue or concern,” he added. 

The BSP has been pushing for wider use of digital payments, and targets to increase its share to half of the total transactions by 2023. 

Asked if there are plans to change the processes in using InstaPay and PESONet to prevent these from being used for any fraudulent transactions, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said the central bank is in close coordination with other supervisory institutions in establishing industry-wide solutions to address cyber threats.

InstaPay and PESONet are the two electronic fund transfer services regulated by the central bank. Diokno said the BSP is also fast-tracking reforms regarding the adoption of a fraud management system and information sharing for fraud investigation.

“We will continue to engage the industry and the Philippine Payments Management Incorporation to explore other countermeasures, such as temporary holding of funds and standardized approach to fraud resolutions, to prevent these platforms to be used for fraudulent activities,” he added. (PNA)