“Coronavirus is widening the money mule pool.”
It has been reported by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau that over 21 reports of fraud since February were Coronavirus-related, with victim losses totaling over £800k.
There is also increasing evidence to show that corona-virus related scams in connection with money laundering are on the rise.
A typical scheme usually involves poaching the unsuspecting victim with an enticing job solicitation offer via email. Usually, the process later involves the ‘employed’ individual to (normally unknowingly) launder the proceeds of crime through their own bank accounts.
Usually these criminals target job seekers and the unemployed. With the global rate of unemployment rising at an unprecedented level, the threat of falling to scams of money laundering is particularly great.
During a time when communities are trying to come together and help one another, criminals are seeking to exploit the pandemic for their own gain.
It has been found that criminals are adapting their techniques to exploit the good nature and heighten the anxieties of those it targets. Phishing emails are increasingly adapting to the current crisis suggesting to victims that the funds will go to ‘coronavirus relief efforts;’ trapping the individual into a belief they are earning legitimate money whilst achieving a greater good.
There is also evidence to suggest that criminals are using authoritative techniques to appear legitimate, such as claiming to be government official bodies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) or like the above example coronavirus-related charities and non-profit organisations.
The use of money mules is not a new tactic of money laundering criminals. Rather, the pandemic provides a unique opportunity for these criminals to widen their nets to enlist more vulnerable individuals to the world of financial crime.
Regulated businesses need to be vigilant and have in place anti-fraud and anti-money laundering procedures & policies to combat these exploitative schemes.
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