A hooded man holds a laptop computer while a blue screen with an exclamation mark is projected onto him in this illustrative image taken on May 13, 2017. — REUTERS
NIGERIAN cybercrime in the Philippines surged in 2020 as syndicates took advantage of accelerated digitization at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showed.
In a report, AMLC said it recorded 17,178 suspicious transaction reports (STRs) related to Nigerian crimes in 2020, a 668% increase from the 2,236 reports in 2019.
The total value of STRs increased by 261% to P998.6 million in 2020, from P276.6 million in 2019.
“The remarkable increase in reported Nigeria-related crimes in the country should obviously be noted. Aside from the significant amount, this study has shown that these illicit transactions have existed in the country since 2009 and have spread to this day,” the AMLC said.
The AMLC said it conducted the study amid the increasing incidence of online fraud by Nigerians operating inside and outside the Philippines, using residents as mules.
“The pandemic served as a harbinger to signal the advisability and importance of digitizing the nature of transactions. Strikingly, the increased use of online services during the pandemic has also increased cybercrime risks,” the AMLC said.
Increased internet usage by Filipinos may also have contributed to the rise in cybercrime, she added.
However, as the lockdowns eased, the number of STRs associated with Nigerians in 2021 fell 47% to 9,036, while the total value in 2021 fell to 569.9 million pesos.
In its study, the AMLC found that the United States is the top source of foreign currency related to Nigeria-related crimes, while most of the outflows went to beneficiaries with addresses in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the National Capital Region recorded the highest number and highest value of STRs, notably Quezon City (highest value) and Las Piñas City (highest number).
According to AMLC, banks are the main channels for the delivery of large proceeds likely linked to Nigeria-related crimes. E-money issuers, money services companies and pawnshops are used for “moderate-value transactions,” she added.
AMLC found that there was a higher volume of reporting from e-money issuers as it provides anonymity to offenders.
Scams associated with Nigerians include romance scams, advance payment scams and inheritance/parcel scams. However, the study also identified some transaction red flags, such as: B. Deposits from unverified sources, involvement in illegal drugs, and transactional activities inconsistent with an individual’s business profile.
The five most common illegal activities identified in the study are unsubstantiated transactions; advance fraud; unauthorized transactions from mostly compromised accounts; Pass-Through/Money Mules and Parcel Scams.
AMLC pointed to the cryptocurrency’s vulnerability to money laundering, as crypto-related transactions also generated significant STRs.
To prevent the spread of these crimes, the AMLC encouraged affected individuals to submit STRs on Nigerian individuals and their cohorts.
The study also recommends involving AMLC’s asset management group to track down the assets of scammers and other applicants. — KBTa-asan