Phishing victims turn to class-action lawsuits against banks

With Filipinos now relying more on online transactions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of potential phishing victims has also grown. 

Just recently, there has been a spate of attacks targeting Security Bank clients, some of whom have banded together to appeal their cases, which have totaled more than P5.7 million in losses from phishing-related theft. Another victim, this time a BPI client, says they lost nearly a million pesos in a similar phishing scam.

Members of a Facebook group for fraud victims have similar stories, with losses ranging from a few thousand pesos to harrowing six-digit figures. The group, which calls itself BankfraudPH, currently has about 1,100 members, and has become sort of an informal support group for victims trying to figure out what steps to take to hopefully recover their money. 

The group also has a petition up on Change.org calling for banks to “strengthen their digital platforms.”

“Bank advisories are not enough to avert such phishing schemes,” the petition says, likely referring to a March 2020 Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas memorandum urging financial institutions to continuously roll out security awareness campaigns. 

Stemming from the initial petition, the group has helped in organizing class-action lawsuits against banks as a last resort after exhausting all means to recover their money via bank dispute processes and intervention from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the sector’s regulator. 

Its call to collective action began with a post back in October 25, 2020, stating: 

“After exhausting all imaginable, diplomatic & arbitration means possible, we are now engaging in separate class suits vs 2 of the biggest PH banks following BSP (consumer affairs) [advice] to pursue legal action.” 

Calls for registration to the BPI class action suit were posted in October 2020 and December 2020, wherein it said, "If you have been victimized with any of scams & credit card fraud mentioned in this petition involving your BPI accounts and still can't move on from that ordeal, you may consider joining our cause until Saturday, Dec. 12."

Calls for the BDO suit began on June 10, 2021. " If you have been victimized under that bank whether it be involving your savings and/or credit card accounts then your dispute has been unceremoniously dismissed, we offer you a chance to recover what you have lost through cost-effective legal remedies," the group said.

One major benefit of a class action suit is that the burden of legal fees can be shared amongst the class members. Some victims have professed that they want to get their hard-earned money back but do not have the funds to pursue a legal case.

The trial for the class action suit against BPI began in May 2021 but no further details have been provided regarding the case. BPI says it's unable to comment, with the matter still pending in court.

The group is also urging other victims, from any other bank, to reach out to them via Facebook for possible assistance. 

Rappler has reached out to BDO for its comments. – Rappler.com 

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.

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