Stern steps and advanced tech vital in fighting scams

PETALING JAYA: Amendments to the criminal laws to tackle mule accounts will ensure those who knowingly allow their bank accounts to be used for criminal activities face legal repercussions, say cybersecurity experts.

Cyber security specialist Fong Choong Fook said it is time to implement stricter actions against those who are aware of the illicit activities involving their bank accounts.

“We need to take stern action against people who are aware that their accounts are being borrowed.

“While some may have excuses such as helping their friend, any act of lending their bank account needs to be treated as an offence,” he said when contacted yesterday.On Tuesday, proposed amendments to the Penal Code were passed while the ones involving the Criminal Procedure Code were tabled in the Dewan Rakyat with the aim of clamping down on the use of mule accounts for illegal activities.

The move is seen as a measure to address the alarming rise in online financial fraud cases where those convicted under the new laws will face fines of up to RM150,000 and 10 years in jail.

Fong said there is a rising number of people who are aware of why they are sharing their bank account details with syndicates or scammers.

“Previously, mule account holders were foreign workers who did not use their accounts often and got paid for lending them.

“Now, syndicates are recruiting people working from home or do not need to work but get paid weekly when they are hired and they know what is happening.

“In fact, I was even approached by an online gambling syndicate to lend my bank account for a certain period as they need thousands of similar working accounts for ‘players’ to deposit their money into,” he said.

Raymon Ram, a criminologist specialising in the field of financial forensics, said economic background plays a significant role in this issue.

“Those from poorer economic backgrounds are more likely to be targeted because they may be more susceptible to the lure of easy money,” he said, adding that mule accounts pose a substantial threat to our financial system.

Strict penalties will serve as a strong deterrent, he said.

“It will educate the public on the risks and legal ramifications, thereby reducing the willingness of individuals to engage in such activities,” he said.

Criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said the amendments should include raising awareness on financial literacy.

He said such can be done by conducting workshops and educational programmes or incorporating such initiatives into the school curriculum to help individuals understand the risks associated with lending their bank accounts and the potential legal consequences.

“The government can raise awareness through targeted campaigns highlighting the risks of lending bank accounts to scammers.

“The message must emphasise the legal ramifications and encourage individuals to report suspicious activities.“Collaborating with banks, community organisations and educational institutions can amplify these efforts.”Sundramoorthy also suggested using technology to detect and prevent the misuse of bank accounts.

“Advanced analytics and algorithms can analyse transaction patterns to identify suspicious activities associated with mule accounts.

“Banks can implement several safeguards to verify the identity and intentions of account holders by incorporating biometric verification and real-time identity checks,” he added.

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