Online thieves can now face life imprisonment

Be very afraid, online money thieves.
The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure defining the hacking of bank systems and the stealing of 50 or more automated teller machine (ATM) or credit card details as “economic sabotage.”
With this new definition, perpetrators of such theft will face heftier penalties, most notably life imprisonment and fines reaching up to P5 million.
House Bill (HB) No. 6710 was sponsored by House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries Chairman, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.
The measure received the Lower Chamber’s final nod after 224 congressmen voted for its passage during plenary session Monday night. None of the solons voted in the negative or abstained.
“The Lower House recognized the urgency of the need for a tougher law against criminals preying on the unsuspecting public and acted accordingly. This bill seeks to protect holders of more than 80 million ATM/credit cards currently in circulation,” Evardone said, referring to the measure’s unanimous passage.
HB No. 6710 is actually the harmonization of two separate bills batting for more serious penalties against ATM/credit card hacking. Evardone and Cebu Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI penned one bill each.
Under the unified bill, unauthorized access through hacking or planting of a virus in a bank’s computer system resulting in the corruption or theft of data is defined as economic sabotage.
Economic sabotage is a non-bailable criminal offense carrying penalties of life in jail and fines of P1 million to P5 million.
The same penalties will be imposed on card skimming/data theft that will affect 50 or more ATM-based accounts, credit cards, or online bank accounts.
The mere possession of a card-skimming device or any similar gadget used for the unauthorized harvesting of account data–even if no actual theft took place–is also punishable with imprisonment of six to 12 years. Fines for this offense range from P300,000 to P500,000.

Quoting figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Evardone noted that there are 76 million debit and prepaid cards currently in circulation, in addition to 8.5 million credit cards.


“Losses from ATM fraud have surged alarmingly from P175 million in 2012 to more than P600 million in 2016–a 250 percent increase in just four years. Add to this the reported P500 million stolen through fraudulent credit card transactions in 2016 alone and one starts to get the scary picture. This has to stop,” the Visayas solon said.

According to Evardone, the bill is also expected to increase the security for OFW remittances which reach a whopping $33 billion annually. The same is true for the growing e-commerce/online shopping sector which accounted for P60 billion in revenues last year, he said.
Kathy Kenny


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