/ Money, Technology

Social media scam tricking public into money laundering

Scam written on keyboard

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.

Serious consequences

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?

Comments
Member

This seems to be the story of mankind, Facebook, Prometheus, the genie out of the bottle, Pandora’s box, the floodgates, the horse that bolted…

I don’t use social media any longer mainly for security purposes. This article is yet another that proves to me that this is the right thing for me to do. From my own experience a while ago and from what I hear from those who do use social media, I don’t miss anything anyhow. I find that I’m unable to do without email, however, and the scams there are bad enough.

Member

Social media gets blamed for a lot, but is there any reason why users fall for scams more than those who receive junk email? I don’t use social media, so I cannot make a comparison.

I assume that the more ways there are of perpetrating scams, the more successful they are.

Member

I think part of the problem is that for something which has become so ubiquitous in day-to day-life, social media is still very new.

That’s where scammers find their opportunity – they look to prey on people’s vulnerabilities, things like a lack of understanding and a desperation for employment in this case.

The best weapon we have to fight them is education.

Personally I think social media is a great communication tool. Connecting people and enabling them to share ideas, and engage in discussion on all manner of topics. Just like this blog.

Member

I agree that we need education to help users of social media to avoid scams, just as we need education to help people avoid scams perpetrated by email and phone. Perhaps TV is the most effective way of doing this, and helping keep us aware of new scams.

Member

Social media are, by their nature, amicable constructs. They therefore import trust very readily. As Adam says, this is what opens the door to exploitation. Education is the key to saving people from scams, but traditional channels have proved ineffective. Wavechange suggests using TV to get the message across and I think that is about the best chance. Perhaps the storylines of the popular soaps and the celebrity shows should include such issues; they’re about the only things in the conventional media that appear to have any influence on people’s activities and behaviour. Downton Abbey is just as popular but it’s probably too difficult to work the topic into the historical scenario.

Member

It would be great if one of the celebrities (maybe one who has been victim of a scam) would put some effort into raising awareness of the dangers of scams. Definitely not my idea of education, but possibly an effective solution.

Member
Dj Greasy says:
15 March 2015

Social media is just that. A social medium. I was recently contacted on facebook by someone asking me if i had a working paypal account. I said yes. The person then said if i would let them use it for 48 hours they would pay me 20% of any monies transferd through it. I knew it was some sort of scam, and suspected some sort of money laundering. Now i could have done with the money but have morals. I reported the user and posted on my timeline that this is happening. The problem isnt the medium. I met my wife of 7 years on facebook and we both use it still wen we are at work to communicate. I do feel that the administrators of these sites could do more to warn ppl but i think they are worried of putting users off using there sites. They do make money from advertising and more users mean they can charge more for that advertising space. Tv is a great way to reach alot of ppl and it will at some point become a story line in a soap or popular drama. Unfortunately education comes only after the problem is identified. The only sure way to prevent scams like this is do not give bank details to anyone u have not verified to the best of ur ability.

Member
Charlotte says:
4 August 2015

Hey what was the name of the person just curious as I have had the same done to my daughter and am trying to find him!

Member

http://po.st/BkWhSY Knowledge on rip off scammers that you need. Hope it helps lads of people!

Member
Dennis says:
22 January 2016

Another variation on the scam?
I’ve got a “friend” on Facebook, less than 20 days I’ve known her, she lives in Texas, USA apparently…
Yesterday she wanted to ask me a favour, could I help her get some money sent from her “uncle” to her urgently, he wants my bank details so he can transfer money and get me to wire it to her via money gram….
I saw red flags immediately…
Said sorry but no….