A recent report from UK fraud prevention service Cifas revealed that young Britons are increasingly being persuaded to act as money mules for hackers and other criminals. The study highlighted a 27% rise in the number of 14 to 24-year-olds who allowed their bank accounts to be used to launder the proceeds of criminal activity last year. Throughout 2017, Cifas noted an 11% increase in the number of bank accounts that may have been used for money mule activities, suggesting that criminals are ramping up their efforts to recruit the cash-strapped to launder their ill-gotten gains. Worryingly, the number of people aged under 21 who let their bank accounts be used in this way rose by 36% in the UK last year. While there was an increase in cases of money muling across all age groups in Britain in 2017, it appears as though younger people have become a prime target for those who have dirty money to clean.
One of the biggest problems for criminals who amass large amounts of cash through their illicit activities is how to make that money appear as though it has come from a legitimate source. Over recent years, a growing number of individuals and groups with funds to launder have used the internet to recruit mules who are happy to have cash paid into their bank accounts before forwarding it on. After receiving dirty money, mules are typically either instructed to transfer it overseas, or withdraw cash and use a service such as Western Union to wire it out of the country they live in. For their trouble, they are offered a percentage of the sum they process, or a one-off fee. In some cases, mules can be offered thousands of dollars for what amounts to fewer than 30 minutes “work”.
While this can seem like an easy way to make some quick cash, the majority of mules are unaware of the punishment they could face if they are caught. On top of this, it is not uncommon for criminals to refuse to pay money to mules once they have done what is asked of them. Despite this, the Cifas data suggests the methods criminals are using to recruit money mules are working, and that warnings from law enforcement authorities about what could happen to anybody caught laundering the proceeds of crime are simply not being heard.
Criminals looking to recruit money mules often place advertisements on legitimate employment sites and classified listings services. Their ads are often worded in a way that disguises the true nature of the role they want potential mules to fulfil, and are typically intended to appeal to the economically disenfranchised, such as immigrants, the unemployed and students. A focus on the latter group is likely a key driver behind the increase in UK money mule cases involving young people. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and social media platforms including Facebook are also used to lure young people in.
Unfortunately for those who are tempted to act as mules without knowing the gravity of the offence they might be committing, ignorance will typically not be accepted as an excuse if they are caught by the police. The likelihood of money laundering offences committed by mules being detected is high, not only on account of the fact that banks are constantly strengthening their procedures and systems to better detect suspicious activity, but also because law enforcement authorities routinely target organised criminals who seek out mules to launder their cash.
In November last year, Europol and the European Banking Federation (EBF) teamed up with police forces in 26 countries to crack down on criminal organisations that use money mules and money mules themselves. The operation resulted in 159 arrests, and the identification 766 money mules and 59 money mule organisers operating in various countries across the globe. In total, law enforcement agencies that took part in the crackdown detected illicit money transfers worth $36 million. Commenting on the success of the operation in a joint statement, Europol, Eurojust and the EBF said they would launch similar initiatives in the future as part of their efforts to fight money laundering and other financial crimes. The figures released by Cifas earlier this month suggest that these types of operations are having little impact on money mule organisers or the individuals who are willing to allow their bank accounts to be used in this way.
The disparity between the number of organisers and mules detected during the Europol-backed crackdown goes some way to explaining why. While criminals looking for mules to wash their dirty money know how to avoid being detected by police, those desperate enough to take up their offers are typically oblivious to the seriousness of what they are being asked to do. As such, cases of money muling are likely to continue to rise, resulting in individuals who would never dream of getting involved in this type of illegal activity facing the possibility of lengthy jail terms, and acquiring criminal records that could seriously alter the course of the rest of their lives.
A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has claimed that 25% of all CDs “fulfilled by Amazon” in the US are counterfeit.
A recent sample purchase programme conducted by the RIAA, which represents major labels that are responsible for the creation, manufacture, distribution or sale of 85% of all legitimately recorded music produced in the US, also found that 100% of new “high-quality box sets offered for sale through eBay or AliExpress in the US were counterfeit”.
The exercise revealed that 11% of new CDs offered for sale on Amazon were fake, and 16% of new CDs sold on eBay were bogus.
Publishing the findings of its sample purchase programme, the RIAA said it had also observed the sale of fake “best of” or “greatest hits” CDs or vinyl that purport to be from major record label artists on these platforms, even when the labels in question had never released such albums.
The association said it continues to see a high number of incidents in which its members branding has been used without permission on multiple ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Redbubble and Bonanza.
“These infringements not only undermine revenues from legitimate sources to music creators and owners, they also harm the reputation and goodwill associated with the artists, brands or logos at issue,” the RIAA said.
“This harm is exacerbated by limited and inconsistent enforcement by online third-party marketplaces and other intermediaries to address counterfeit listings and sellers of counterfeit products.”
Responding to the RIAA’s findings in a statement given to Digital Music News, Amazon said: “Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products.
“Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed.”
Last month, research conducted by anti-piracy and counterfeit protection firm Red Points revealed that the number of items buyers believe to be fake sold on Amazon rises by a third during the company’s annual Prime Day event.
Earlier in July, Amazon announced the expansion of its flagship anti-counterfeiting Transparency programme to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, India and Canada.
First launched in the US back in March 2017, the initiative allows companies to apply unique T-shaped QR-style codes to their products, which can be used by customers, brands, Amazon and other participants in the supply chain to authenticate items being offered for sale.
Canadian police target young drivers recruited by gangs to deliver drugs
Police in the Canadian province of British Columbia have arrested three teenagers in a crackdown on street-level gang activity and drug dealing.
Officers from the Abbotsford Police Gang Crime Unit (GCU) and the Abbotsford Police Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) last week detained two 18-year-olds and one 19-year-old on suspicion of drug offences after police searches resulted in the discovery pre-packaged deals of synthetic opioid fentanyl and crack cocaine along with CA$1,500 ($1,122) in cash and a number of mobile phones.
Detectives taking part in the operation also impounded a 2016 Jeep Wrangler that is said to have been used by the suspects to deliver the drugs they are alleged to have been selling.
Police said the arrests were carried out with the assistance of a patrol division, an emergency response team and sniffer dogs.
The operation was launched after police in the region discovered that local gang members were increasingly attempting to recruit young people who had recently learned to drive.
Sergeant Maitland Smith, of Abbotsford Police’s GCU, said in a statement: “We are currently seeing a trend in Abbotsford evolving around the recruitment of youth into gangs, and more specifically ‘new’ drivers.
“More established street-level drug dealers are aware that the police are seizing vehicles and assets upon being arrested; so they are recruiting younger drivers to chauffeur them as they conduct their drug trafficking business.
“In most cases, these young, new drivers are using vehicles registered to their parents to drive the dealers around with the promise that they will get a share of the profit at the end of the day.”
Smith went on to explain that acting as a driver for drug dealers is a serious offence that could result in arrest and prosecution, regardless of whether young car owners have handled illicit substances or not.
He also warned that any vehicle that police believe has been used to facilitate the sale of illegal drugs could be seized, even if the car is officially registered to a young person’s parents.
Abbotsford Police warned young people they could be putting themselves, their friends and their relatives at risk if they become involved in drug dealing or other forms of organised crime, noting that dozens of young adults have been shot dead across the region over recent years.
LAX border officials seize fake luxury goods worth $3.5 million smuggled into US from Hong Kong
Customs officers working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have confiscated thousands of luxury items that would have had an estimated retail value of nearly $3.5 million had they been genuine.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigators working at the airport found the haul among air cargo that had been brought into the country from Hong Kong, which is a major source of counterfeit and pirated products globally.
The massive shipment of fake items included nearly 1,250 counterfeit Gucci belts, 678 pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes, more than 530 counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags, 500 counterfeit Samsung adaptors, over 500 counterfeit Gucci waist pack belts, 230 counterfeit Hermes handbags, 192 counterfeit Casio Shock watches, 144 counterfeit Ferragamo belts, 100 counterfeit Versace belts, and 119 counterfeit Fendi shorts.
Carlos Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles, commented: “CBP protects businesses and consumers every day through an aggressive intellectual property rights enforcement programme.
“These seizures demonstrate the high level of skill and vigilance of our officers and import specialists.”
In a statement, CBP said the sheer size of the illicit shipment indicated the huge amount of profit that can be made by importing counterfeit goods into the US, and went on to warn consumers that fake items such as these are often sold through illegitimate websites and underground retail outlets.
Donald Kusser, CBP Port Director at LAX, said: “The American public should be aware that buying a counterfeit product is a lose-lose proposition, because the money they paid often funds criminal enterprises.
“In addition, buyers get a substandard low-quality product, containing unknown chemicals and likely produced under inhumane conditions.”
In a report published back in March, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office revealed that pirated and counterfeit goods had grown to account for 3.3% of all global trade, noting that the majority of the fake goods seized across the globe throughout 2016 were said to have originated from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Hong Kong has also come under fire for the role it plays in the global illicit trade in smuggled wildlife products, with a coalition of local NGOs warning in January that the region plays a wildly disproportionate role in wildlife crime thanks largely to its close proximity to mainland China.
Amanda Witfort, a professor at Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law and one of the study’s authors, said at the time: “Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated. Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as organised and serious crime, under Hong Kong law.”
- Why drug trafficking cartels favour smuggling their illicit cargo in consignments of fruit
- A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
- Canadian police target young drivers recruited by gangs to deliver drugs
- LAX border officials seize fake luxury goods worth $3.5 million smuggled into US from Hong Kong
- Organised crime police in Australia seize 1.5 tonnes of smuggled tobacco worth A$1.5 million
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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