‘Money mule’ scammers set their sights on Newham

SCAMMERS have recruited hundreds of Newham residents to take part in a money laundering racket.

Crooks are seeking out people to become so-called money mules, who allow their bank accounts to be used to transfer illicit gains out of the UK.

Half of such accounts identified by banks in Greater London are located in the east of the city – and more than a third of those are based in Newham.

Some 1,582 suspicious accounts in the borough are being tracked, according to figures from Financial Fraud Action, an alliance of banks and other financial firms.

Head of fraud control Katy Worobec said: “The criminals are currently focusing on East Londoners.

“But this problem is a national one and nobody can afford to be complacent.”

The body says Newham appears to have been targeted because it has a high population of migrant workers.

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And while some are in league with the fraudsters, others have been duped into taking part, mainly by Internet job adverts.

The cash involved often comes from online banking fraud, such as phishing scams, where fake websites and e-mails are used to obtain bank details.

Money mules are then used to transfer the money from their own bank accounts to those of the fraudsters, many of whom are based overseas, using a wire transfer service.

They are usually allowed to keep some for themselves.

A survey of Newham residents carried out by FFA found nearly a quarter of those questioned had been targeted to be a mule or know someone else who has. Some 86 per cent of those who had been approached had not reported the matter to police. Sixty per cent of those quizzed did not know that it was a criminal offence, carrying a potential prison sentence of up to ten years.

A joint campaign, involving FFA and the National Fraud Authority, is now aiming to raise awareness in Newham. For advice on how to reduce the chances of becoming a victim visit www.financialfraudaction.org.uk