The big “money mule” problem in South Africa

The South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has issued a statement alerting the public to the dangers of being recruited as a “money mule”.

A “money mule” is somebody whose bank account is used by another person or entity.

This type of fraud is enabled by technology such as biometric identification, and results in the implication of innocent bystanders.

“People on street corners are recruited as money mules with the promise of quick payments for the use of their banking account,” said SAFPS executive director Manie van Schalkwyk.

These “money mules” are used by others either knowingly or unknowingly, and will usually be recruited by somebody who does not have a bank account or wants to make a payment invisible.

This problem has become so prevalent in South Africa that the SAFPS has opened a new category of fraud specifically to deal with the issue.

“The danger for the consumer is that they are complicit in a criminal act and will be getting themselves involved with a fraudster,” van Schalkwyk said.

“It might look like easy money, but the victim has no idea what the money is being used for and it is often for illegal gains and even human trafficking.”

In South Africa, most people are recruited at street corners, but this problem is prevalent around the world, with a lot of the recruiting occurring over the internet.

“There is nothing ‘easy’ about this money,” van Schalkwyk said.

“When you allow the use of your banking account as the middleman for third party banking you are in breach of your contract of account with the bank, and will be on record as a money mule.”

“You could be looking at a criminal record for life, and worse be party to the devastating crime of human trafficking.”

The SAFPS said it is working closely with local banks to maximise security and awareness around this type of fraud.

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The big “money mule” problem in South Africa