TymeBank warns customers not to be unwitting ‘money mules’

TymeBank has issued a warning to its customers against letting strangers use their bank accounts — even if they were promised payments in exchange for favors.

The bank also issued a warning to the public after noticing an increase in so-called mule accounts.

A mule account is an account opened to transfer funds from one account to another, often as part of the process of laundering money from criminal activity.

George Wandsella, director of corporate risk and fraud at TymeBank, said: “You may be helping criminals commit a crime and hide their illegally obtained funds.”

He said it was “potentially seeing you get arrested for being a money mule and possibly damaging your credit and finances”.

Criminals sometimes ask people to open bank accounts for them and make payments. In other cases, someone’s personal information is used to open a bank account without their knowledge. Fraudsters then use the account to illegally transfer funds to other accounts.

Individuals who open accounts are known as “money mules,” and if their accounts are used for these transactions, people may unknowingly be seen as money mules.

context

Wandsella said the increase in fraudulent accounts and transfers needed to be seen in the context of the recently released annual crime statistics, which showed that banking on digital platforms now outstrips all other channels of transaction in South Africa.

“The increase in online transactions over the past few years has been accompanied by a significant increase in South African mule account schemes, where criminals exploit people’s vulnerability to promise easy money.”

Targets are often approached online or through social media platforms, and young people are often lured into these schemes, he added.

“TymeBank has a strong security system, in addition to protecting customer accounts, our technology helps us monitor suspicious activity, but criminals are always looking for ways to hide their ill-gotten gains.”

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TymeBank said it was determined to prevent the opening of mule accounts and was adamant in closing accounts that were proven to be used for suspicious transactions, adding that there may be a “very small percentage” of mule accounts among its customer base.

increasing trend

“As Sabric mentioned, we see a growing trend in this area globally as well as domestic banking [South African Banking Risk Information Centre] Crime Statistics. The rapid growth of digital applications and social media is a key factor in this trend,” Wandsella said.

“We found that consumers were unaware of what it means to be a money mule.

“If you’re convicted of a money mule, you could damage your credit and finances, and you could go to jail for money laundering.”

TymeBank warns people to be aware of the methods commonly used by criminals:

  • Fraudsters ask unsuspecting account holders to transfer funds to a third-party account on their behalf in exchange for a fee, and often at the same bank as the third-party account, transactions can be processed in real-time;
  • Someone approaching you, asking you to open a bank account online, and then allowing the other party to use it, will often explain why they can’t open their own bank account, which sounds innocent enough; and
  • Criminals also use lost or stolen ID to open mule accounts.

“Clients also need to play their part by following a few simple rules,” Wandsella said.

“As well as helping to combat money laundering worldwide, it also keeps you out of jail.”

He said no one should share their financial details or give access to their bank accounts to anyone they don’t know and trust.

“Don’t trust emails, texts or similar communications from people who promise you money in exchange for what you do very little.

“Watch out for promising quick and easy ways to make money,” Wandsella said.

“If this happens, do not accept the offer and report it to the police.”

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People should report lost or stolen identity documents or identity cards to the South African Fraud Prevention Service (Safps) to prevent fraudsters from using your details to open bank accounts or credit facilities.

“Be prepared to be safe. Stay informed about the latest bank fraud and scams,” says Wandsella.

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