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House pushes tougher penalties for ATM skimming

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The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill imposing tougher penalties on criminals who steal or attempt to steal money from automated teller machines or ATMs through “skimming.”

By a 224-0 vote, the chamber approved House Bill 6710 amending the fines and penalties set under Republic Act No. 8484, otherwise known as the “Access Devices Regulation Act.”

The bill aims to acknowledge advances in information technology on access devices, which are cards, codes, telecommunications services, or other means of account access used to initiate fund transfers or to obtain money, goods and services.

It defines skimming, a fast-growing threat in the country, as “a type of fraud that occurs when an ATM is compromised by a disguised card reader that saves an ATM card number and its corresponding personal identification number (PIN).”

Applications are also included in the bill as a computer program designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities.

Other concepts introduced into RA 8484 by HB 6710 include online banking, and automated teller machine (ATM) card.

Prohibited acts under RA 8484 are also expanded through the approved bill.

The provisions of HB 6710 declare illegal skimming, copying, or counterfeiting any credit card, ATM, or debit card and obtaining any information therein with the intent to access the account and operate the account. The bill further considers this a violation whether or not cash is withdrawn or monetary injury is caused.

Possession of any type of any skimming device, electronic gadget, or equipment that is used to perpetrate the foregoing acts is also prohibited.

Further, it declares as illegal the act of accessing any application, online banking account, credit card account, ATM account, debit card account, in a fraudulent manner regardless of whether it results in monetary loss to the account holder.

The measure levies heavier fines against violations as well.

Economic sabotage—defined as hacking a bank’s system, skimming 50 or more ATM cards, or committing any of the prohibited acts affecting 50 or more accounts—shall be met with life imprisonment and a fine of P1 million to P5 million.

Meanwhile, an offender in possession of 10 or more counterfeit access devices and/or unauthorized access devices and was able to access at least one account or gained credit through fraudulent use of any of the devices shall face minimum imprisonment for 12 to 20 years. In addition, the offender shall be fined P500,000, or twice the equivalent of the aggregate amount of all affected or exposed bank accounts, whichever is higher.