Is money laundering on the rise?

“Let me send you a four thousand pound cheque. You deposit it and send me three thousand pounds back. You can keep the difference.” Most people would recognize this situation as illegal money laundering if not outright fraud. In an increasingly digital world, fraud is made all the easier because you can ask for account numbers and send money in seconds if not drain their bank account. But is money laundering on the rise? And what can you do about it?

The factors driving the growth of money laundering

To answer the earlier question, the answer is yes, money laundering is on the rise. The internet allows money launderers to reach vast numbers of uninformed people. They may be told that they’re going to make money as a money transfer agent. In other cases, the money laundering is combined with other scams such as asking someone to order the item and forward it to the destination along with processing the payment. Now the person thinks they’re working as a freight forwarder or personal assistant. They don’t realise that what they’re doing is illegal.

The government-mandated shutdown in response to the coronavirus has left many people financially strapped. The promise of five to ten percent commission for merely letting others run money through their bank account is too appealing to ignore. Unfortunately, the groups who want to use your bank account are almost always fronting criminal organisations. By laundering their money, you’ve become complicit in their crimes and guilty of one yourself.

What are the penalties for money laundering?

Many people are aware of the risk of having their account accessed by a third party, thenbeing drained of funds, though it could be as simple as not reimbursing the person’s purchase or reversing the payment they made. They may think that they can control the risk by closing the account and opening a new one. However, this doesn’t eliminate the legal repercussions for working as a mule, processing payments on behalf of criminals. This crime is called “misuse of facilities” fraud.

In a best-case scenario, your account is closed and you’re forced to pay back the “commission” paid by the money launderers, and it adversely impacts your credit history. If police think you were aware of the illegal nature of the activity, they’re likely to prosecute as soon as they’re aware of the fraud. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, you could be sent to prison for  as long as fourteen years. This conviction also creates a criminal record that affects your ability to get a job later on in life 

How to protect yourself and your family

Scammers intentionally target young adults who don’t understand the risks and  who are desperate for easy money. That is why the number of Cifas cases for under-21s has doubled in the past year. Criminals also target vulnerable people like single mothers and small business owners who are in debt. The solution to this is education. Teach your children that no online job application requires you to provide your bank account information. Tell them that there is no legitimate job that involves average people buying items and shipping them to others, though there are professional commercial operations that do this type of work. They do not outsource this work to stay-at-home mothers and college students. Explain that those who want to legitimately gift them with money will not ask for a debit card and PIN number. Teach them that the police or the bank fraud prevention department will not call them or text them and ask for their pin number.

If you fall foul of such a scam, only realising the full extent of the situation when facing charges from the Police., you should consult with specialist  money laundering solicitors as soon as possible . You also risk greater penalties if you continue to launder money. If a family member is laundering money, you don’t want to risk greater liability if they start using other financial accounts. For example, a young adult laundering money via Bitcoin who moves on to laundering money via a bank account or PayPal account has increased their culpability. A money laundering solicitor is an expert in this field, and this reduces your odds of being convicted of a crime.

Review your young adult’s financial statements and ask them to explain any unusual activity. Report suspicious activity on a bank account or other financial account to Action Fraud and contact an attorney expert in money laundering. If you don’t know if you’re a victim of money laundering fraud, a solicitor can check the identity of your customers and report suspicious activity to the NCA.

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