Illicit job offers target new entrants to UK – Report

New figures released by Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) highlight the spread of a scam which recruits recent entrants to the UK, through illicit job adverts, to money-launder thousands of pounds to criminal gangs abroad. The proceeds of these activities fund an international trade in drugs, people trafficking and terrorism.

The fake job offers, often made online advertising job titles such as ‘Money Transfer Agent’ or ‘Payment Processing Agent’, turn participants into so-called ‘Money Mules’. The recipient of the offer is invited to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to another account, retaining a cut for themselves.

In reality, the money received is stolen, often the result of fraud on accounts, and is then laundered to overseas bank accounts. This activity is illegal and carries a number of consequences, including freezing of customers’ bank accounts, difficulty in opening new accounts in the future (affecting the ability to gain a mortgage, insurance etc.), and even a prison sentence of up to ten years (affecting the ability to gain employment and establish a career).

Demonstrating the scale of this activity, a new research by ICM shows that these offers are received by around 15% of adults in the UK. However, strikingly a full-quarter (25%) of recent entrants to the UK report having been approached, far out stripping the national average.

Almost half (47%) of those recent entrants to the UK who were surveyed said they know someone who has been approached.

Of those who were approached, one in five (52%) recent entrants reported the idea having been suggested by someone they know.

Of the new entrants who have received an offer to become a ‘Money Mule’, two fifths (41%) admit to having considered accepting the work, with one in four (20%) – three times the national average – going on to agree to undertake this illegal activity.

These figures are reflected across the entire recent entrant population (including those who have not been approached), with 16% admitting they would consider ‘Money Muling’. This is double the proportion of adults who are not recent entrants to the UK (9%) who said they would consider the activity.

Demonstrating an under-estimation of the seriousness of this offence, only 12% of recent entrants to the UK who were surveyed correctly identified the ten-year maximum custodial sentence available to the courts in prosecuting offenders.  

DCI Dave Carter, Head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) said: “What might initially seem an attractive method of boosting your income during tough times is in reality the work of determined international criminals, aiming to turn recent entrants to the UK into an unwitting army of accomplices to fraud. These new figures demonstrate the gap between perceptions of the public and the real seriousness and criminality of this conduct. Whether through naivety or ‘willful blindness’ to the consequences, members of the public need to reject any approach for their bank account to be used in this way.”

How to spot a criminal money laundering approach and steps to take to protect yourself

– Be very cautious of unsolicited emails promising opportunities to make easy money
– Verify any company that makes you a job offer and check their contact details (address, landline phone number, email address and website) are correct and whether they are registered in the UK
– Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate
– Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them

Other signs that could indicate you are being targeted by a money mule scam

– Money mule adverts or offers can take a variety of different forms and they may even copy a genuine
company’s website and have a similar web address to make the scam seem authentic
– These adverts will normally state that they are an overseas company seeking ‘UK representatives’ or ‘agents’ to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high transaction charges or local taxes
– The nature of the work that the company will claim to be involved in can vary, but the specifics of the job being advertised invariably mean using your bank account to move money
– The advert may be written in poor English with grammatical and spelling mistakes
– If you have already disclosed your bank account details or received money into your account and you think it could be a money mule scam, you should contact your bank immediately