Australia acts against ‘money mules’ helping money launderers

Organised Crime (2)
Photo: AFP

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 30 November: Australia has decisively taken steps to curb ‘money mules’ helping criminals and criminal organisations transferring money to illegal money holders taking a commission on it.

In support of the European Money Mule week of action, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Australian Transaction Reports Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) conducted intelligence gathering and analysis activities recently (20-24 November).

Money mules are the middlemen for criminals who have obtained funds by online banking fraud through phishing or hacking. The criminals need a mule to launder the funds obtained as a result of illegal activities. After being recruited by the fraudsters, money mules receive funds into their bank accounts and then they withdraw the money and send it to a designated account (domestic or offshore), using a wire transfer service, minus a commission payment.

Across Australia, police gathered valuable information from around 60 door-knocking interviews with persons at risk of being targeted by criminals for money mule activities. This activity occurred in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, coinciding with operational activity around Europe with 26 countries participating in the simultaneous week-of-action.

Internationally, the European Money Mule week of action saw more than 1700 fraudulent transactions reported, 766 money mules identified and 59 money mule recruiters identified.

AFP National Manager Neil Gaughan said criminals may use online chat rooms, social networking sites, post hoax websites, fake advertisements and fake profiles to recruit mules and try to persuade people to take part in illegal activity.

“The funds the criminals need transferred are often the proceeds of fraud and the persons who participate in these scams as the money mules are effectively laundering the proceeds of crime.

“Criminals target members of the community to carry out their laundering activities, sometimes unwittingly. Along with intelligence gathering, the 60 door-knocking interviews provided police the opportunity to raise awareness of the types of tricks and scams criminals will use to recruit money mules.

“We rely on the support from the community and our law enforcement partners to help bring to justice these criminals preying on vulnerable members of our community,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.

Acting Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Border Command, James Watson said the ABF continues to target money mules and the syndicates they may work for.

“Currency over $10,000 including cash, stored value cards or cheques must be declared at the border on both arrival and departure. Our officers have sophisticated means of detecting currency including using x-ray, detector dogs and physical inspections,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Watson said.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Cybercrime Intelligence Hub Manager Charlotte Wood said the ACIC provided intelligence to support the AFP on over 30 persons of interest during the week of action.

“The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is concerned about individuals in Australia cashing out the proceeds of cybercrime, with money mules being one of the main methods for laundering criminal proceeds.

“Cybercrime disruption remains a major focus for Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and with ongoing collaboration with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, we will continue to frustrate cybercriminals’ ability to launder money out of the country, making Australia a less attractive target.”

AUSTRAC National Manager Intelligence Dr. John Moss said, “AUSTRAC is working closely with law enforcement and international partners by providing financial intelligence, including working with industry via our Fintel Alliance partnerships, to help identify and track down entities that are directly controlling mule networks”.

An AFP media release says, following the tips below can prevent involvement in criminal activity:

Be cautious about unsolicited offers or opportunities offering you the chance of making easy money;
Be wary of offers from people or companies overseas as it makes it harder to check if they are legitimate;
Take steps to verify any company which makes you a job offer, for example, address, phone number, email address, and website. You could check if it is a registered company in Australia;
Never give your confidential banking details to anyone;
Always guard your personal information and be suspicious if someone asks for personal details soon after contact;
Be wary of a person asking for financial assistance – never send money, particularly by wire transfer as these funds cannot be recovered by banks; and
Be cautious of someone asking for details of your financial status – do not provide the information.
If you have received money in your bank account, transferred or attempted to transfer money overseas, please immediately contact your bank or financial institution. You could be at risk of having your identity stolen by these criminals and your bank account drained of savings.

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