Become a money mule… and risk a criminal record


    If someone offers you money in exchange for opening a bank account in your name and allowing them to deposit money into it‚ you’re complicit in a criminal act‚ and could end up with a criminal record.


    That’s the warning issued by Manie van Schalkwyk‚ executive director of the SA Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

    The massive spike in the number of third-party bank accounts being abused for the proceeds of crime — known as money muling — has led to the SAFPS creating a special new category of fraud to document it.

    “This may seem like quick money‚ but it’s not‚” Van Schalkwyk said‚ urging consumers not to allow themselves to be used by criminals in this way.

    In many cases the money mules are vulnerable single women who have been “wooed” for months by criminals using fake profiles on online chat rooms and dating sites.

    In these romance scams‚ the women‚ who believe themselves to be in an authentic relationship‚ are asked by their “boyfriend” to receive money and send it to a third party.

    “When you allow your banking account to be used by someone else you are in breach of your contract of account with the bank‚ and you will be on record as a money mule‚” Van Schalkwyk warned. “You could be looking at a criminal record for life and you could even be party to the devastating crime of human trafficking.”

    Money-mule bank fraud makes a mockery of banks’ sophisticated anti-fraud mechanisms‚ such as fingerprint identification to verify account holders.

    While money-mule recruiting is mostly done at street level in South Africa‚ in other parts of the world much of it is happening in cyberspace‚ Van Schalkwyk said.

    “The Australian Banking Association Inc reports that that country’s law-enforcement agencies and the banks have seen two methods which criminals use to recruit unsuspecting innocent people in their illegal activities — the posting of fraudulent employment adverts online and sending emails to random addresses.” The emails promise quick commissions in return for using the consumer’s bank account for receiving money and transferring it elsewhere on behalf of the fraudster.

    “The SAFPS is working closely with all the banks to ensure maximum security and awareness to make sure we take control of this growing fraud epidemic‚” Van Schalkwyk said.

    by Wendy Knowler

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