Facebook Users Being Lured into Internet Fraud Operations

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Gullible teenagers from across the United Kingdom are being lured through Facebook to assist criminal operations involved in identity theft, hacking scams and other Internet fraud incidents, according to an investigation conducted by the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.

According to reports, individuals are being recruited under the promise to make up to £4000 – £12,000 ($5880 – $17,640 US dollars) in just half an hour through the social networking site if they agree to offer their bank accounts to fraudsters as a place to deposit funds stolen from innocent Internet fraud victims. “Card mules” then withdraw the cash and split the proceeds with the criminals, helping them to avoid detection by police.

What many that get caught up in the scams fail to realize however, is that this opens them to potential prosecution for money laundering – and the risk of a maximum 14-year jail sentence.

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Money laundering is the process of creating the appearance that large amounts of money obtained from serious crimes, such as Internet fraud, organized retail crime, drug trafficking, or terrorist activity, originated from a legitimate source. Currently a worldwide problem, Internet fraud operations want their illegal funds laundered so that they can then use their money without fear that the funds will be traced back to their criminal deeds. Laundering also helps avoid the funds being confiscated by law enforcement. By transferring and then withdrawing the funds from numerous legitimate bank accounts across a wide area, this serves to “launder” the money and reduce risks with the help of countless naïve and susceptible cohorts.

Hundreds of Facebook pages were found where advertisements were requesting accomplices to help them turn the proceeds of identity theft, and other Internet fraud activities into cash. The ads tempt potential recruits with photographs of teenagers in nightclubs and shopping malls posing with large amounts of cash, Apple computers and shopping bags from designer retailers to help lure them into the scam. Here’s how it works:

The investigation revealed how a reporter posed as a youngster willing to help the criminal gangs and was contacted by a fraudster who offered the reporter the chance to make between £4,000 and £12,000 in just 30 minutes and promised to split any proceeds “50/50” if he could deposit cash in the reporter’s account and then meet up to withdraw it from a bank.

The investigator was told to bring his bank card to a busy underground train station, where it would be picked up by the fraudster’s associate, known as a ”runner.” Upon meeting with the “runner” the undercover investigator was told, “To avoid being caught by the police after you cash out, you should ring up your bank and say your card has been stolen.” He also advised the reporter to empty his account before laundering the money.

Police recently launched an investigation based on the reports, and Facebook took urgent action to close the pages after being alerted. However, within 24 hours new pages had appeared on Facebook.

While this particular incident took place in the United Kingdom, there are millions of victims of all different types of Internet fraud in the United States and around the world to include credit card fraud, identity theft, and other serious crimes. Internet sites such as Facebook and other forms of social media should be monitored on a regular basis as part of investigative efforts to deter this type of criminal activity.

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