Online business

Financial Crime & ‘Money Muling’ – How To Avoid Becoming A Target

“Ignorantia legis neminem excusat”-  A classic Latin Legal principle which means “ignorance of law excuses no one”

Fraud is fraud – So we’re taught.

Lately i’ve have been reading a series of articles and research publications on matters relating to the ever rising cases of financial crime. To be honest, these days it’s hard to look away and simply pretend nothing is wrong. Everything about financial crime is wrong. And it is a global concern. It’s not only wrecking and damaging economies, but also has a direct and harmful corrosive effect on people’s lives.

On this blog post, i intend to focus on a particular issue – Money Laundering. You’ve definitely come across a variety of personal stories, news articles, publications, podcasts, or so, where one or more controversial areas of money laundering are adressed. Money laundering and the environments of illicit financial flows are both prompting a great deal of discussions internationally.

So, what is Money Laundering? The International Compliance Association (ICA) describes Money Laundering as a “process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making such proceeds appear to have derived from a legitimate source.” (Read more)

And, how are ‘Money mules’ and ‘Money Laundering’ connected?- We’ll get to that in a few seconds.

First of all, there are a number ways this kind of financial crime can occur. The most common and obvious types of money laundering activities include Tax evasion and false accounting practices. How does that happen? The simple answer- The process of money laundering is said to be quite complex. (Read more) 

According to an Europol article –MONEY MULING -Public awareness and prevention -“More than 90% of money mule transactions are linked to cybercrime. The illegally obtained money often comes from phishing, malware attacks, online auction fraud, e-commerce fraud, business e-mail compromise (bec) and CEO fraud, romance scams and holiday fraud (booking fraud) and many others.” (Read on)

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), defines “Money Mules” as – “people who are used to transport and launder stolen money or some kind of merchandise.” In addition, criminals may even recruit ‘willing participants’ who by the way, may not even have the slightest hint that they are being used to commit fraud.

In fact, with today’s economic conditions, becoming a victim of money mule scams can be quite easy. Consider a common scenario you’ve probably seen like the “Work from home opportunities.” I can’t tell you enough how many times i’ve seen people in desperate situations looking for these kinds of opportunities. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of earning money from the comfort of your own home as long as it is legitimate.

But if the ‘deal is too good’ and you probably ‘smell a rat’ then it’s high time to be on your guard.

To get some perspective on the scale of the problem, there’s an article on published Moneymules.co.uk  which also explains how the money mules process works. Basically, the fraudsters may approach individuals anywhere. This could be online or even  on the streets where they ask their victims to receive money into their banks accounts and transfer it to another account keeping some of the cash for themselves. – Doing this means that you’re a money mule and you’re involved in money laundering.

Another scenario-What would you do if you were targeted by someone who poses like an Army Captain? Or even a police officer? On an article published on abc, an FBI tells of a story of a fraudster who actually posed as an Army Captain. He informed his victim that he was trying to make arrangements to travel home. Long story short, the victim received  $10,000 in his bank account. He was then instructed to ‘withdraw it in small increments’ and send it to a woman in Texas. (Read on)

Now we see why there’s high importance in being vigilant. As part of being aware, we should be keen to understand what the source of funds are, and the purpose of a retainer.

Here’s a short clip from CIFAS revealing some of the reasons why criminals need Money Mules

Here are more links to help you learn more about ‘money muling’

The filter bubble isn’t just Facebook’s fault – it’s yours

Following the shock results of Brexit and the Trump victory, a lot of attention has focused on the role that Facebook might have played in creating online political ghettos in which false news can easily spread. Facebook now has serious political influence thanks to its development from a social networking tool into a primary source of news and opinions. And for many, the way it manages this influence is in need of greater scrutiny. But to put the blame solely on the company is to overlook how people use the site, and how they themselves create a filter bubble effect through their actions.

Much of this debate has focused on the design of Facebook itself. The site’s personalisation algorithm, which is programmed to create a positive user experience, feeds people what they want. This creates what the CEO of viral content site Upworthy, Eli Pariser, calls “filter bubbles”, which supposedly shield users from views they disagree with. People are increasingly turning to Facebook for their news – 44 % of US adults now report getting news from the site – and fake news is not editorially weeded out. This means that misinformation can spread easily and quickly, hampering the chance people have for making informed decisions.

Over the last few weeks, there have been frequent calls for Facebook to address this issue. President Obama himself has weighed in on the issue, warning of the perils that rampant misinformation can have for the democratic process.

Much of the debate around this, however, has had an element of technological determinism to it, suggesting that users of Facebook are at the mercy of the algorithm. In fact, our research shows that the actions of users themselves are still a very important element in the way that Facebook gets used.

Our research has been looking specifically at how people’s actions create the context of the space in which they communicate. Just as important as the algorithm is how people use the site and shape it around their own communications. We’ve found that most users have an overwhelming view that Facebook is not ideally suited to political debate, and that posts and interactions should be kept trivial and light-hearted.

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This isn’t to say that people don’t express political opinions on Facebook. But for many people there’s a reluctance to engage in discussion, and a sense that anything that might be contentious is better handled by face-to-face conversation. People report that they fear the online context will lead to misunderstandings because of the way that written communication lacks some of the non-linguistic cues of spoken communication, such as tone of voice and facial gestures.

There’s strong evidence in our research that people are actually exposed to a great deal of diversity through Facebook. This is because their network includes people from all parts of their life, a finding that echoes other research. In this respect, the algorithm doesn’t have a marked influence on the creation of filter bubbles. But because they often want to avoid conflict, people report ignoring or blocking posts, or even unfriending people, when confronted with views with which they strongly disagree.

They also report taking care of what they say themselves so as not to antagonise people such as family members or work colleagues whose views differ from theirs, but whose friendship they wish to maintain. And finally, they talk of making a particular effort to put forward a positive persona on social media, which again stops them from engaging in debate which might lead to argument.

Not so easy to fix

The idea that algorithms are responsible for filter bubbles suggests it should be easy to fix (by getting rid of the algorithms), which makes it an appealing explanation. But this perspective ignores the part played by users themselves, who effectively create their own filter bubbles by withdrawing from political discussions and hiding opinions they disagree with.

This isn’t done with the intention of sifting out diversity but is instead due to a complex mix of factors. These include the perceived purpose of Facebook, how users want to present themselves in an effectively public form, and how responsible they feel for the diverse ties that make up their online network.

The fact that manipulation by the algorithm isn’t the only issue here means that other solutions, for example raising people’s awareness of the possible consequences that their online actions have, can help encourage debate. We have to recognise that the impact of technology comes not just from the innovations themselves but also from how we use them, and that solutions have to come from us as well.

The Conversation

Philip Seargeant, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, The Open University and Caroline Tagg, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and English Language, The Open University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.