February 18, 2019

Good day, welcome to another bulletin from Breaking Scams…

Scam, just in…

Scams come in all size, shapes, and using all of the technology at the scammer’s disposal. So, it is no surprise that social media-based scams are on the increase. In 2018, UK bank customers lost £145 million because of authorised push payment (APP) scams. Most of the APP scams were carried out using social media or online auction sites. An APP scam is where a person buys an item (usually a big-ticket item like a car), pay the money, but that item doesn’t actually exist.

Social media offers cybercriminals a rich seam of possibilities for scammers. In this weeks’ scam to watch out for, social media is being used to trick users into becoming a money mule. The individual not only hands over their bank account details to a scammer, but they end up as a mule for illegal money transactions; transactions that support human trafficking, drug cartels, and terrorism.

The Signs of the Instant Social Scam

This week’s scam has been running on social media platforms Instagram and Snapchat. The scams are being investigated by Europol. And, in December, Europol made 168 arrests globally. However, the scam continues unabated.

The scam varies around the theme of making money fast. Scammers entice users in by offering ways to make a lot of money very quickly. Typically, you would be offered money to share your bank account details. A real easy way to make a few quid?

The scammer then uses the account to launder money – the account holder being effectively used as a money mule.

Sky News recently looked into the money mule social scam, finding that the under 25s were 6 times more likely to fall for the scam than those over 50.

The scam often begins in the guise of a ‘get rich quick’ offer on social media. The scammers use the hashtags #instantcash, #activebankaccount or variants on that theme.

Some suspicious Instagram posts are shown below as examples.

social media scam

social media scam

How to Avoid Becoming a Money Mule

The old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a useful guide to life online. Social media is awash with scams. Vigilance and knowledge are your key weapons against the scammer. Here are a few tips to stay safe on social platforms and avoid becoming a money mule:

  1. If you are approached by someone on a social platform offering a fast way to make some money, be extremely cautious. Either ignore it altogether or do a lot of research.
  2. Scammers often hide behind seemingly legitimate offers. Be vigilant and always research any offers, especially those “too good to be true”.
  3. Money launderers may show you a seemingly legitimate website, it may even look like the site of a known brand. Like phishing websites, the URL may look similar to a legitimate site, but it will differ in small ways. Always query the URL closely.
  4. The scammers may try to recruit you as an individual or even your company to be ‘local or national representatives’. Verify the organisation fully before engaging.

Finally, never, ever give out your bank account details unless you absolutely trust the person or business you are about to deal with.

If you think this scam is too obvious, and who could possibly fall for it? Europol arrested 1504 money mules in Q4 of 2018. Ignorance is not a defence where money laundering is concerned and can carry a prison sentence.

Avoiding scams, whatever platform is used to perpetuate it, is about understanding what you are up against. A bit of vigilance and knowledge goes a long way to avoiding any scam.

Why not help your colleagues stay safe and send them this little reminder. Feel free to edit, copy/paste the advice below:

Social Media Money Mule Scam

Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are being used to trick people into giving out bank account details. Once the scammer has those details, they use the bank account to push illegal monies. Those monies are used for illegal purposes including human trafficking and illegal drugs.

As well as putting the individual or company bank account at risk, this makes the account owner a money mule and liable for prosecution.


Don’t forget to share this with your colleagues and friends and help them stay safe.

Let’s keeping breaking scams!

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