FNB warns of serious financial crime – how not to become a victim

 ·30 Jul 2023

FNB says the use of money mules is common across the world and is seriously hurting the local financial services industry.

A money mule is an individual who is recruited by criminals to allow for the movement of unlawfully-acquired funds through their personal bank account.

Standard Bank’s Nokuthula Motlhomi previously said that the number of South Africans that have been tricked into becoming money mules has skyrocketed over the last three years, with South Africans facing severe financial hardships amid the rising cost of living.

“Money mule recruitment typically involves luring unsuspecting individuals with promises of easy money or job opportunities. These individuals are often unaware that they are participating in illegal activities,” Roshan Jelal, Head of Fraud at FNB Commercial, said.

“They may be asked to receive funds into their bank accounts and withdraw the money in cash or transfer it to another account or send it through alternative payment methods. In return, they are usually allowed to keep a portion of the funds as a commission.”

“The funds involved in money mule activities are often the proceeds of criminal acts, such as online scams, identity theft, bank fraud, or money laundering. By using money mules, criminals attempt to obscure the origin of the funds and make it more challenging for law enforcement to track and seize the illicit proceeds.”

Partaking in money-mule activities is illegal and can result in extreme repercussions for the individuals involved, including criminal charges, incarceration, and the loss of their employment.

What to do

Amidst the possible legal consequences for the victim, FNB provided a host of tips for consumers so that they can avoid becoming money mules:

  • Be vigilant: Stay alert and familiarise yourself with the concept of money mules. Many financial institutions provide a lot of useful information about scams and tactics employed by criminals.
  • Be wary of unsolicited job offers: Exercise caution when approached with job offers that involve receiving and transferring funds through your personal account(s). Be suspicious of any job that promises easy money or requires minimal or no effort.
  • Question unusual requests: If you get requests to receive money from unfamiliar sources or transfer funds to accounts unknown to you, be suspicious. Your bank account should only be used for activities you can vouch for.
  • Protect your personal information: Be protective of your personal information and avoid using third-party devices to store credentials such as usernames and passwords. Equally, be mindful of the type of information you share on social media platforms.
  • Report suspected criminality: If you suspect that you are being recruited as a money mule or have already become involved, report it immediately to your local law enforcement authorities or your bank. Prompt reporting can help prevent financial losses and assist in the investigation of criminal activities.

“By staying informed, you can protect yourself from being exploited as a money mule. Remember, your awareness and proactive actions play a crucial role in combating financial crimes and creating a safer environment for everyone,” Jelal said.

Read: SARS sends a warning to taxpayers looking to use loopholes and ‘schemes’ to dodge taxes

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