The House of Representatives in Philippines has approved a bill that proposes imposing life imprisonment for people who indulge in hacking of ATM and credit cards.

In addition to imprisonment, the bill calls for a corresponding fine of PHP1m ($19,000) to PHP5m ($97,000), and seeks to declare ATM card skimming, credit card and bank computer system hacking as non-bailable offences.

Eastern Samar Representative and chairman of the House committee on banks and financial institutions Ben Evardone said: “The Lower House recognised the urgency of the need for a tougher law against criminals preying on the unsuspecting public and acted accordingly.

“This bill seeks to protect holders of more than 80 million ATM/credit cards currently in circulation.”

The bill also proposes to consider hacking of 50 or more ATM and credit cards as economic sabotage.

Evardone further added: “Losses from ATM fraud have surged alarmingly from P175m ($3.39m) in 2012 to more than P600m ($11.64m) in 2016 – a surge of 250% in four years.

“Add to this the reported P500m ($9.70m) stolen through fraudulent credit card transactions in 2016 alone and one starts to get the scary picture. This has to stop.”