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‘Money mules’ hoping to pass unnoticed

Service Area: Fraud

Member: Roger Isaacs

Recent research suggests that middle-aged people are increasingly – and often unwittingly – being targeted by criminal gangs to launder money.

According to fraud prevention service Cifas, the number of so-called ‘money mules’ aged between 40 and 60 increased by 35 per cent in 2019 compared with 2017.

A money mule, sometimes called a ‘smurfer’, is someone who transfers money illegally in person through a courier service or electronically, on behalf of someone else. Criminals use them because they generally have no criminal record and the payments they make are more likely to pass unnoticed.

The mules are typically paid for their services with a percentage of the money transferred and may be targeted through social media with the lure of easy cash. However, in other cases, they can be duped into laundering money in the belief they are being paid for doing a job.

They then share their bank details, believing that what they are doing is legitimate, allowing cash that could be the proceeds of crime to flow through their account and into other accounts.

However, if the gangs that organise the transfers thi to quit they cank their mules are trying to quit they can be threatened with violence and if they are caught by police, they face a prison term, as well as longer-term consequences, such as having their bank accounts closed or being unable to obtain credit in future.

As a spokesman for Cifas said, fraud in the UK is continuing to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new ways of committing it, which is harming the UK both socially and economically.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The UK has a strict set of anti-money laundering laws, which place onerous reporting obligations professional advisers, including accountants and solicitors.

“The fact that fraudsters are now targeting and middle-aged people with no criminal past, makes it all the more difficult for the investigating authorities to try to stay one step ahead of them.”

Author: Roger Isaacs 21 June 2019