‘Money mule’ scam warning

The New Zealand Bankers’ Association today warned people against transferring money for people they do not know to avoid becoming a ‘money mule’.

The warning comes after a scam that affected an older Blenheim resident.

In this case the overseas fraudsters had persuaded the bank customer they had won a lottery as part of a syndicate and asked the customer to assist by passing on the group’s administration fees. The customer then received a significant amount of money by direct credit, cheques and cash. The scammers then instructed the customer to send the funds to Canada through a money transfer organisation.

“This case is particularly nasty because the criminals preyed on an older person’s trust and goodwill,” says New Zealand Bankers’ Association chief executive Karen Scott-Howman.

“If someone you don’t know sends you money and asks you to transfer it overseas through a money transfer operator, it’s very likely to be a scam. They’ll be wanting to use your bank account for criminal purposes. The best thing to do is to contact your bank or the Police.”

Mules are usually promised easy cash for receiving money into their account and transferring it to an overseas account once they have taken a ‘fee’ or ‘commission’ for their trouble. In other cases people are lured by fake romances or asked to donate to an overseas charity to receive a significant tax refund. In this case it was a fake lottery.

The funds deposited in their account will likely 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.