COMING in the wake of the controversy surrounding the so-called ‘COMELEAK,’ a  man accused of identity theft to defraud a bank client in Metro Manila was arrested by agents of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP ACG) in an entrapment operation in Parañaque City.

Suspect Joseph Nicol Tan Ong gave fake identification cards during the sting inside the Green Heights Subdivision in Parañaque City 12:50 p.m. last Friday, said PNP ACG Director, Police Senior Superintendent Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar in a report to PNP Chief, Police Director General Ricardo C. Marquez.

The suspect is now facing charges for violations of Republic Act 8484 or the “Access Device Regulations Act of 1998”, R.A. 10175 or the “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012” and Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code for Falsification of Documents.

The arrest of the suspect was triggered by a request from Union Bank of the Philippines regarding the presence of an unknown impostor misrepresenting their client (the real credit card holder) to gain advantage of their client’s credit cards.

According to Eleazar, their investigation showed that the impostor had called through the Union Bank’s Customer Service, pretending to be the real client. During those calls, the suspect reported that he left his credit cards inside a taxi and tried to surpass the bank’s Positive Identification Procedure of questioning. He also requested that his email address and cellular phone number be updated.

Due to diligence and strict security measures implemented by the said bank, an immediate coordination was made to the PNP ACG for the investigation and conduct of an entrapment operation against the suspected fraudster.

Eleazar said that during the pre-meditated delivery for replacement of the credit cards, the suspect waited outside the house of the real client and immediately approached the messenger (police operative) and presented his driver’s license and voter’s ID which had the personal data of said client but bore his own photo.  After receiving the said cards, the operatives of PNP ACG led by Police Superintendent Mark Q. Mapacpac of Cyber Financial Crime Section carried out the arrest of the fraudster.

Eleazar said they are still investigating how the suspect managed to get the personal data of the real client.

In the wake of the incident, the official released the following tips suggested by banks to avoid identity theft on financial transactions in connection with the ‘COMELEAK’:

# Improve security precautions by using strong email passwords and changing them regularly.

            # Refrain from opening unknown emails and attachments which may contain malware.

            # Install an anti-virus program and firewall on computers and update the software as needed.

            # Keep personal info off social media. Be careful with posting anything on social media which could provide info on location and accessibility.

            # Keep your credit card and its details always safe.

            # Be careful in giving info on web purchases.

            # Do not surf the web while accessing online banking accounts. Ensure that only your online banking site is open.

            # Do not engage in sensitive transactions online.

            # Monitor online account activities.

            # Separate passwords for online banking and non-banking accounts.

            # Subscribe to text and email notifications and alerts from your financial services institutions.

            # Cooperate with the banks on the update adjustments to improve online security and customer identification and verification processes.

Eleazar said these tips will greatly help address the different types of fraud when it comes to financial transaction. On the part of the banks, they are continuously strengthening their security systems and protocols to counter financial frauds.

The PNP ACG also warned Internet users to be wary of emails claiming to be from financial institutions or other legitimate organizations and asking the recipients that their security details and passwords need to be updated by logging on to an authentic-looking but fake website.

Unknown to the victim, the purpose of these websites is to obtain your internet banking details in order to access your bank accounts.

In the case of identity theft, Eleazar said that an individual perpetrator or syndicate will gather your personal details in order to gain some sort of financial or other benefits, often leaving the real owner of that identity with a large debt, a negative credit history, and in some cases, with legal implications.

“We are taking this opportune time to again remind the public to be aware regarding the security of respective personal documents and information that can be obtained from simple utility bills, identification cards, receipts, social media posts and other personal effects,” Eleazar said.