Fraudsters are increasingly looking to the internet as a means of legitimising their activity and many people appear to be willing to ignore the age-old adage that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting agency, has issued advice to the public after a convicted fraudster revealed some of the ways criminal gangs are recruiting unsuspecting people to act ‘money mules’ to avoid detection.
After responding to online advertisements, money mules receive stolen funds into their account and are then asked to withdraw them and transfer the money to a different account, keeping some of it for themselves.
Anyone found guilty of helping launder money in this way could face up to 14 years in jail.
A recent Home Office study found that serious organised crime cost the UK £24 billion in 2013. It is now thought that the figure may now be even higher. Money mule schemes are suspected to play a major part in this kind of criminal activity.
Chris Greany, national coordinator for economic crime, said: “We will continue to build on our relationship with the NCA and European law enforcement to ensure that money mules are prevented from fostering a cycle of illegal activity.
“We urge people to follow our advice and protect themselves from crooks who are looking to involve people in their web of criminality. Getting involved in such activity could result in years spent behind bars.”
The following behaviours could put people at risk of becoming a money mule:
Responding to job adverts, or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work.
Failing to research a potential employer, particularly one based overseas, before handing over your personal or financial details to them.
Allowing an employer, or someone you don’t know and trust, to use your bank account to transfer money.
The public should be aware that no legitimate company will ever ask them to use their own bank account to transfer their money.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.