Over-fifties at greatest risk of falling victim to “money-muling” scams

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Posted on: 25 March 2019 by Matthew Lawson

Sadly neither fraud nor money laundering is anything new, but the means by which these crimes are committed does regularly change to keep up with the times in general and new technology in particular. The fact that older people may not be the most in touch with a rapidly-changing world can make them easy targets for persuasive criminals.

To put this statement into context, you might find it interesting to know that in the year 2016-2017 there was a 59% overall rise in money-muling scams – but there was a 73% rise in the number of over-fifties impacted by them. The good news is that it’s actually quite easy to protect yourself, with a little knowledge. Here is what you need to know.

The basics of money muling

At its core, money muling is simply a form of money laundering in which criminals trick innocent parties into receiving funds into their bank accounts, which they are then persuaded to forward to another bank account with the result that “dirty” money is made to look clean.

Why are older people such easy targets for these scammers?

Possibly the reason why so many older people are falling victim to these scams is because increasing numbers of older people are undertaking some form of self-employed “gig” work, either to supplement their existing income in preparation for retirement or to make a pension go further.

Many of the standard ways of tricking people into becoming money mules involves giving them some kind of job offer and then persuading them to use their own account to receive and transfer money as part of their job. Never agree to this under any circumstances.

An employer should only require your bank account details to pay you and, these days, many “gig” employers will actually pay through PayPal. In the event that you receive money to which you are not entitled, say an “accidental” overpayment, never agree to forward it to another source. Return it to the person which made the payment. If they won’t give you the necessary details to do so, just alert your bank and leave them to deal with it.

Protecting yourself against unauthorized use of your bank account

You can become a money mule accidentally, just by trusting the wrong person with your bank details or even just failing to take sufficient care of them. First of all, if you have any old, dormant bank accounts/building-society accounts/post-office accounts or basically any form of account which allows you to receive and send money, especially online, then formally close them. It’s also a good idea to close any old, dormant credit cards you have and if you have cards with small balances on them, then think about paying off the balances as quickly as you can and closing them too.

Once you’ve narrowed down your accounts and credit cards to what you actually need and use then be vigilant about watching the activity on them (which will help you to spot fraudulent transactions in general) and be careful about trusting anyone else with anything relating to them. Think of your bank accounts and credit cards as keys not just to your home door, but to your life and treat them with at least the same degree of respect as you would give your house keys.

For more information on financial crime, please contact Matthew Lawson Barrister

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