Bill vs financial scamming filed

In a move to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity, Senator Joel Villanueva co-sponsored the Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act (AFASA), Senate Bill No. 2560 under Committee Report No. 204.

The bill, which is a priority legislation of the current administration, seeks to combat the rising tide of financial account scams in the Philippines, especially in the wake of increased digital banking adoption during the pandemic.

In his co-sponsorship speech, Villanueva thanked fellow senator Mark Villar for spearheading the measure, acknowledging the urgency of safeguarding the growing number of Filipinos embracing digital financial services.

“Because of the pandemic, a huge spotlight was placed on digitalization in the conduct of everyday business. With mobility and face-to-face interactions and activities restricted, many Filipinos turned to online and digital banking methods to conduct their personal and business transactions,” he added.

According to recent BSP data, the “banked” population soared from 29% in 2019 to 56% in 2021, with the percentage climbing further to 65% in 2022.

Despite these advancements in financial inclusion, Villanueva underscored the alarming surge in fraudulent activities targeting bank accounts and e-wallets.

The BSP reported a staggering 42,456 complaints of financial fraud between 2020 and 2021, accounting for 45.2% of total complaints received in 2021.

The senator highlighted sophisticated scams that have duped many, including an incident where a Facebook user’s father was nearly tricked into giving away ₱20,000 through a deceptive text message resembling a legitimate transaction error from GCash.

He also shared a personal anecdote of one of his staff members falling victim to a scam involving concert tickets, emphasizing the swift and often irreversible transfer of funds to fraudsters.

He also noted an increase in complaints from individuals deceived by fake bank representatives seeking personal information, leading to unauthorized account access.

AFASA aims to intensively protect consumers by declaring large-scale financial scamming as a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime, subject to maximum legal penalties.

This bill, Senator Villanueva hopes, will mark the end of criminal exploitation of innocent citizens and the safeguarding of their hard-earned money.