INTERPOL Targets Money Mules In New Campaign

August 12, 2022
#YourAccountYourCrime is a global campaign that aims to raise awareness about money mules and the consequences of those that become agents of money laundering and fraud.

#YourAccountYourCrime is a global campaign that aims to raise awareness about money mules and the consequences of those that become agents of money laundering and fraud.

INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) is launching a global awareness campaign that aims to highlight the massive use of money mules in facilitating the movement of criminal proceeds.

“Criminals will go to great lengths to recruit money mules because they play an essential role in distancing themselves from authorities and escaping detection,” said Stephen Kavanagh, executive director of police services. “Money mule schemes can be disguised as employment, romantic relationships or investments, or simply as helping out a friend.”

Money mules are people recruited by criminals, often unwittingly, to transfer funds on their behalf and launder their illicit profits. They play a key role in the criminal cycle.

According to data from BioCatch, money mules constitute up to 0.3 percent of accounts at US financial institutions, equating to an estimated $3bn in fraudulent transfers.

In most cases, money mules are recruited as part of wider scams to escape the audit trail, adding layers by moving the money further and further away from the original crime.

In the UK, figures from the fraud prevention service Cifas suggested that as many as 10,686 under-21s were caught up in the crime in 2019.

This was a rise of 26 percent on the previous year.

The rifeness of the issue spurred the Bank of England, as well as Pay.UK, to partner with payments system company Vocalink to launch the latter’s Mule Insights Tactical Solution. Using machine learning and combining data from different financial institutions, the service tracks the flow of fraudulent transactions through bank and building society accounts.

“At the end of the day, however, moving money for someone else, especially across borders, is risky business. Money mules, whether complicit or not, help perpetuate the criminal cycle and could face prosecution,” said Kavanagh.

In May, INTERPOL published a Purple Notice warning of the growing use of money mule "herders", who regularly seek blanket authorisations to use the personal accounts of victims as their own.

Just last week, the suspected ringleader of an international romance scam network was returned to Japan from Ghana to face prosecution.

The person in question is alleged to have swindled 400m yen ($3m) using fake female profiles on matchmaking apps.

As part of the IFCACC-supported investigation, police arrested a further 15 accomplices, many of whom were money mules.

The campaign hashtag, #YourAccountYourCrime, is an address to the general public that they are responsible for keeping their accounts safe and that there are consequences for moving money on behalf of a third party.

The campaign, which will run until August 26, will explain how to stay safe and out of the criminal cycle by looking at how money muling works, how to avoid becoming a victim, as well as the risks associated with money muling.

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