Money mule scam warning

People should be wary of transferring money on behalf of people they don’t know. The warning was issued today by the New Zealand Bankers’ Association in response to a new banking scam.

In the latest scam people are contacted by strangers, by email, telephone or through social media sites, claiming they have accidently paid funds into their bank account. They ask that the funds be returned by using a money remittance service.

In such cases, the unsuspecting New Zealand bank customer is being used as a ‘mule’ to transfer stolen funds as part of a type of money laundering operation. The funds deposited in their account will have been stolen from another victim’s account, usually from a ‘phishing’ scam where people have unwittingly provided the scammer access to their account. The mule is then asked to withdraw the funds in cash and use a money remittance service to ‘return’ the funds.

Social engineering techniques are often used by scammers to allay any suspicions the mule may have. These include the need for speed, exploiting a desire to help, using threats, or inventing an emergency.

“Anyone who suspects they are involved in a banking scam should notify their bank as soon as possible. Don’t use a money remittance service to send money to people you don’t know. It’s bound to be scam,” said New Zealand Bankers’ Association chief executive Kirk Hope.

Mule scams come in a variety of guises. Another version involves people accepting online job offers to receive funds and transfer them on while retaining a ‘commission’. Other cases involve fake romances and charities.

“If in doubt about any suspicious activity involving your bank accounts, contact your bank or the Police,” Hope said.