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Don't become a money mule - ANZ warns criminals are targeting young New Zealanders with the promise of easy money

ANZ Bank New Zealand is warning of a rise in scams involving people becoming money mules, either unknowingly or willingly.

 

A money mule is someone who becomes involved in transferring stolen money. They either transfer it to another bank account or crypto currency account under instruction, withdraw funds or purchase gift cards to give to someone else.

 

In some cases, the people are willing participants, but in many cases, people have been tricked into aiding the illegal transfer of funds.  Sometimes a money mule might even sell access to use their bank account or cards.

 

The scams often originate through social media with criminals contacting people through social media, email, messenger apps, or in person.

 

ANZ is particularly concerned at the growing number of young people being targeted.

 

Last year there was an increase of 20 per cent in mule accounts opened by 17- to 24-year-olds, and an increase of 24 per cent in mule accounts opened by 25 – to 34-year-olds.

 

Those cases number in the hundreds; a fraction of ANZ’s overall customer base. But every scam is one too many.

 

“Younger people spend a lot of time online and see others making money as influencers or buying and selling things,” says Alan Thomsen, who oversees ANZ’s customer protection team.

 

“Earning money online is quite normalised and scammers are smart, they tap into our vulnerabilities. Manipulating young people to become mules with the promise of fast cash is a growing problem in NZ.”

 

People may not fully understand the consequences of letting someone else use their bank accounts. It can lead to their accounts being frozen, or closed, and potentially a Police investigation.

 

“We want to get the message out there that there are very real consequences if you get caught up in one of these scams – particularly for the victims who are losing money to criminals.

 

“When New Zealanders allow their bank accounts be used as mule accounts, they are enabling the criminals operating these scams and can become part of the international criminal networks operating simultaneously across multiple countries.”

 

ANZ has a fraud monitoring system and team of detection analysts and investigators to identify suspicious behaviour and help minimise scams and fraud.

 

The first phase of New Zealand’s National Anti-Scam Centre is now live and focused on sharing of information in a much more co-ordinated way between banks to help identify and reduce fraudulent payments to mule accounts.

 

How to identify a money mule scam

 

In a job scam the fraudsters often get in touch via social media, messenger apps or email and offer people work in which money is deposited into their account and they are instructed to transfer the funds into a third-party account, for a commission.

 

The unwitting money mule might think they’ve been hired as an “account manager” and their role is to transact payments on behalf of the organisation they are “working” for.

 

A way to identify that it’s a scam would be if it seems like an easy way to make quick money – if it seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam.

 

In romance scams unwitting mules may have an online ‘partner’ who tells them they’re going to transfer some money to them because their own accounts are being audited. They might then ask the victim to send that money to another account, usually controlled by the fraudster.

 

Protecting yourself – or your family members:

 

There are things everyone can do to prevent becoming a mule, and potentially part of a scam.

·       Never give anyone access to your accounts. 

·       Never give cards, PIN numbers or other banking details to anyone else.

·       If someone reaches out to you through social media, online or in person and offers you a quick way to make money – think twice as you may be targeted to be a money mule.

·       Do your own research and be suspicious of too good to be true offers.

·       Never sell your account or let anyone use your accounts to receive money and withdraw or transfer that money to another account.

·       If someone threatens you to receive and send money, talk to trusted family and friends or the Police.

·       If you think your bank account may be being used as a mule account, get in touch with your bank for support.

 

Unfortunately, customers are increasingly being targeted by different types of scams. We all need to be careful with our private and financial information.

 

ANZ customers who have been a victim of fraud or a scam should call us immediately on 0800 269 296 (international +64 4 470 3142).

 

To find out more about how to stay keep safe online, as well as scams to be aware of, people can go to anz.co.nz/banksafe.

 

For media queries contact: Tony Field tony.field@anz.com

 

 

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