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Money Mules and Money Laundering

What is a Money Mule in Money Laundering?

As a financial adviser, we have responsibilities under the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering of Financing Terrorism legislation.  You will see this when we require proof of ID, residential address and source of wealth and source of funds from you.

 
As part of our obligations we are required to maintain processes and risk assessments and undertake ongoing training of all our team to ensure that we are aware of how money can be laundered.
 
A large part of this training involved learning about the convictions for crimes related to money laundering, and one that caught our attention was Money Muling.  Here is some information on what it is and how you could spot a money mule.  While this may not affect you personally, it may affect someone that you know, so it is useful to be aware of the information.
 
What is a Money Mule?
A money mule is a person who transfers money (digitally or in cash) received from a third party to another one, obtaining commission for it.
 
Warning signs
  1. Unsolicited contact promising easy money
  2. Job adverts from overseas companies seeking ‘local/national agents’ to act on their behalf.
  3. Poor sentence structure with grammar mistakes
  4. The senders email address is likely to use a free web-based service (Gmail, Yahoo! Hotmail etc) not matching the company’s name.
  5. No education or experience requirements listed
  6. All interactions and transactions regarding the job will be done online
  7. The specifics of the job always include using your bank account to move money.
 

Methods used by criminals to recruit mules:

  1. Direct contact in person or through email.
  2. Social media (eg Facebook or Instagram)
  3. Instant messaging (eg WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram)
  4. Online Pop-up ads.
 
Most targeted people:
  1. People under 35 including minors
  2. Newcomers to a country
  3. Unemployed, students and people in economic distress
 
Prevention Tips
  1. Research any company or person that offers you a job
  2. Never provide your bank account to anyone unless you and trust them.
  3. Decline any easy money offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What can you do?
If you think you are involved in a money mule scheme, stop transferring money immediately.  Notify your bank or payment provider and report it to your national police.
 
Some examples cited:

A widow who met an international fraudster through an online dating site was used as a money mule to funnel money from an invoicing scam.  The scammer had hijacked the email account of a NZ construction company and was able to change the payment details on invoices before they went to clients.

The event arm of the America’s Cup syndicate Team New Zealand lost $2.8m in a similar fashion after paying the money to a scammer’s Hungarian bank account and Leppertons’ Ruru House childcare centre lost $54,000 in an in invoice scam in 2018.
 
You can find more information at the New Zealand Commission for Financial Capability by clicking here, or by downloading the booklet below, hat they produced called ‘Money Mules – are you working for criminals?



 

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