Social media: a valuable tool for the digital age? Or is it just another channel for marketers and scammers? Warnings from the Financial Fraud Bureau show it’s more important than ever to stay safe online…
Last week the Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA) warned that organised criminal gangs are using social media to recruit unsuspecting members of the public to launder dirty money earned from drug smuggling, people trafficking and fraud.
Traditionally money mules have been recruited through job adverts and online postings or sometimes through email. And while these methods are still being used, the FFA warned that criminal networks are also making use of social media to recruit the unsuspecting.
Recent examples have reportedly included Facebook posts on closed groups, or direct contact through instant messaging apps such as BBM or Whatsapp. These typically try to encourage people to contact the sender if they hold a particular bank account.
Money mule scam
Authorities refer to victims of this scam as ‘money mules’ – members of the public who are tricked into sharing their bank account details, allowing illicit money to be transferred through and then laundered.
Mules are usually told they are taking a legitimate job, with a title like ‘money transfer agent’. Payment is often a cut of the funds passing through their account.
The content of these posts can vary dramatically. Some will ask readers to become a ‘UK representative’ of an overseas company to help them avoid local taxes. Others are brasher, posting pictures of piles of cash with little to no detail on what the recipient’s bank account will be used for.
Katy Worobec, director of the FFA UK, said:
‘An online posting or job advert which claims you can make easy money and asks for details of your bank account are highly likely to have been posted by criminals trying to recruit money mules.
‘The consequences of letting criminals transfer money through your account are very serious – this is an offence punishable by a custodial sentence, and can bring with it the prospect of losing access to bank accounts and mortgages.’
So after hearing those consequences, here are three top tips on how to spot and avoid a money mule scam:
- Be very sceptical of unsolicited contact promising opportunities to make easy money.
- Verify any company that makes you a job offer and check their contact details are correct.
- Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
Have you ever been victim of a money mule scam or a similar online scam? Are you concerned about using social media? Do you have any tips for staying safe online?