There’s a new tactic being used by Canadian fraudsters to launder money and cops are warning people to stay vigilant so they don’t become the next “unsuspecting victim.”
The victims are referred to as “money mules."
Being a money mule refers to when fraudsters have recruited an individual to serve as a middle person to transfer stolen money.
The mule may, or may not, be aware that they are a pawn in a larger network.
When a mule moves money, it becomes harder to identify the fraudsters from the victims and can lead to victims being tied to serious crimes.
Police say the money is often transferred using bank wire transfers, email money transfers, through money services businesses and cryptocurrencies.
Typically, mules get paid for their services, receiving a small percentage of the money transferred, but fraudsters may disguise these funds as a “payment from clients,” “a loan for a crypto investment,” prize winnings” and more.
According to the OPP, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) and the RCMP, 2021 was a historic year for frauds reported to the CAFC, with reported losses totally $380 million, — a dramatic increase from $164 million in losses in 2020.
At the CAFC, we continue to work tirelessly with law enforcement and partners to target fraudsters, recover funds and raise awareness about scams and fraud, but everyone has a part to play in fraud prevention and recovery,” Sgt. Guy Paul Larocque, office run charge at CAFC, said in a statement. “With the notable increase in fraud reports in Canada, it is more important than ever for Canadians to know what scams and fraud look like, how to protect themselves and to always report them.”
“Fraud is a criminal offence in Canada, with real victims and real impacts,”: Chris Lynam, director general of the CAFC and National Cybercrime Coordination Unit at the RCMP, added. “What may seem like a harmless email or phone call, could result in devastating losses. Be vigilant and report incidents of scams and fraud to local police and the CAFC. By doing so, you will help us find the criminals, take down their networks and assets, prevent further victimization, and make Canada more resilient to fraud."
However, it’s estimated that only five per cent of victims report their frauds to law enforcement or the CAFC.
Based on reports to the CAFC, the top five most reported scams and fraud in 2021 were extortion, phishing, merchandise scams, service scams and vendor fraud.