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Criminals using social media to recruit victims as money launderers

According to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) organised criminals are using new methods – such as social media – to recruit members of the public to act as unsuspecting money launderers.

Money mules are often recruited by fraudsters to receive money into their bank account, then withdraw the money and wire it overseas, minus a commission payment.

The mules are told that they are taking a legitimate job using such titles as ‘money transfer agent’. Acting as a money mule is illegal and allows organised crime groups to move funds easily the world. If you are caught doing this you can face a prison sentence and the prospect of never again being able to secure a mortgage or open a bank account.

Traditionally, money mules were recruited through job adverts and online postings or sometimes through criminals directly approaching their victim in person or through email. 

According to FFA UK’s recent intelligence fraudsters are now targeting people through social media. This includes Facebook posts on closed groups, or messages sent through instant messaging apps such as BBM, which typically encourage people to contact the sender if they hold a particular bank account.

The FFAUK’s intelligence also suggests that students are most susceptible to the crime, as well as some newcomers to the UK who are often directly targeted soon after arriving in the country.

How to spot a money laundering approach and steps to protect yourself:

  • Be very cautious of unsolicited emails or approaches over social media promising opportunities to make easy money. 
  • Verify any company that makes you a job offer and check their contact details (address, landline phone number, email address and website) are correct and whether they are registered in the UK. 
  • Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate. 
  • Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.

Other signs that could indicate you are being targeted by a money mule scam:

  • Money mule adverts or offers can take a variety of different forms and they may even copy a genuine company’s website and have a similar web address to make the scam seem authentic. 
  • These adverts will normally state that they are an overseas company seeking ‘UK representatives’ or ‘agents’ to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high transaction charges or local taxes. 
  • The nature of the work that the company will claim to be involved in can vary, but the specifics of the job being advertised invariably mean using your bank account to move money. 
  • The advert may be written in poor English with grammatical and spelling mistakes. 
  • If you have already disclosed your bank account details or received money into your account and you think it could be a money mule scam, you should contact your bank immediately.

Read more on the Financial Fraud Action UK website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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