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Digital Fraud and Exploiting Loopholes in Financial Systems

An elderly woman using her smartphone. CC-BY-4.0

Exposing the harsh realities of digital fraud and the systemic loopholes that enable financial exploitation, this analysis examines the film “Nanay (Mama)” by KC Sulit and JV Sangalang. The piece shines a light on the vulnerabilities faced by the digitally illiterate, particularly the elderly, who often fall prey to scams that can wipe out life savings with ease. It calls for a multifaceted approach beyond urging individual digital literacy and holding authorities, financial institutions, and technology providers accountable for strengthening security measures and providing accessible pathways for redress. By giving voice to victims, the analysis underscores the urgent need to address these systemic gaps to build a more equitable digital financial ecosystem that protects society’s most vulnerable.

This post is part of a series of issue analyses for the Tech Tales Youth film collection. Read the rest of the series here.


In Nanay (Mama), an elderly woman falls victim to a scam call towing away her hard-earned savings – to the frustration of her more digitally-savvy daughter. The film is not merely a warning about the financial dangers that lurk online, but a critique of the systemic issues that allow these to happen and leave victims with little recourse for redress.

As digitised financial transactions become more commonplace, so does the prevalence of financial scams. Filipinos have lost at least P155 million due to scams in 2023, and the country has consistently ranked among the top countries in Southeast Asia reporting high rates of fraudulent digital transactions and phishing attacks.

While mobile banking and online financial services promise ease of use and convenience, those who lack digital literacy often get left behind. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, with opportunists preying on their limited knowledge of how online scams work through digital apps. For the marginalised and those living in poverty, these can translate to their life savings and retirement funds wiped out with one simple click.

The Philippine government has sought to enact various policies to address digital fraud, but these laws are either problematic – infringing on privacy and digital rights as in the SIM card law – or are inadequate to stop scammers. For instance, the cybercrime law is geared towards protecting systems of financial institutions, while provisions in the Financial Consumer Protection Act still leave room for scammers to target individuals. Additionally, the Philippines’ strict bank secrecy laws pose challenges to authorities running after fraudsters who immediately transfer funds into different bank accounts. This was the case in a May 2023 incident when users of the popular payment platform Gcash reported anomalous transfers to two banks. Some funds were not recovered as the fraudsters had already withdrawn a portion of the stolen money.

Most advice on preventing scams puts the onus on the user, telling them to be wary if the scammer gives limited information, plays with emotions, and emphasises a sense of urgency to resolve the situation. Popular mobile payment platforms and financial institutions regularly post advisories on common scam tactics and emphasise the importance of being digitally literate to prevent falling victim to scams. The reality, however, is that the majority of the general population still lacks digital literacy skills: as of 2019, only 6% of Filipinos 15 years old and above have basic internet skills, while only 2% have standard digital skills. Among age groups, the young (10-14 years old) and the elderly have the lowest digital literacy rates.

The film shows that beyond strengthening one’s digital literacy skills, accountability and liability must also be shared and shouldered by other stakeholders. Both the government and major financial institutions bear a responsibility to make it harder for scammers to exploit loopholes in the system while providing more accessible paths for victims to file disputes and resolve complaints. Technology providers too must ensure that their security measures are adequate and that their services are user-friendly and easily understandable for different demographics and age groups. These systemic problems must be addressed to protect those already on the sidelines of society.

Watch the film