Probe on e-wallet rip-offs sought

A lawmaker has filed a resolution paving the way for an investigation into the reported cases of “loan and sale of mobile wallet accounts.”

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian noted that “the use of mobile or e-wallets provided tremendous benefits to many people such as ease of doing online transactions especially during the pandemic.” However, the Senator said, there’s a “need to make sure that consumers are amply protected from harmful elements seeking dishonest gains through this channel.”

Gatchalian, in a statement, asserted that relevant government agencies should “come up with an effective intervention to stop the practice of lending or selling SIM cards with verified mobile or e-wallet accounts.”

The senator noted that users of mobile wallets or e-wallets in the country have increased through the years, recalling that in 2017, there were approximately nine million registered e-wallet accounts, adding that “in 2020, the usage of e-wallet in the country was three times higher than that in 2017.”

Gatchalian added that by 2025, the number of e-wallet users will rise to 7.7 million.

The Senator observed that online scammers usually use e-wallet accounts that are not registered under their names.+

“They are able to do this by using or buying SIM cards in the black market that are registered with e-wallets under people who sell or lend their identities.”

He recalls the Anti-Cybercrime Group of the Philippine National Police warned that fraudsters use such accounts in criminal activities such as money laundering and identity theft.

According to Gatchalian, fraudulently acquired mobile wallets may also serve as channels for money mules, or those who transfer or move illegally acquired money on someone else’s behalf, “including those who are unaware of larger criminal schemes.”

Moreover, he recalled reports that criminals often target students, the unemployed and those on dating websites by lending or selling their mobile accounts.

Gatchalian added that in a recent hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, it was revealed that digital wallets were used to execute bets relating to online or e-sabong, raising concerns that online payment platforms including mobile wallets facilitate gambling activities.