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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Job scam targets bank 'mules'

UK consumers are being urged to steer clear of a new scam which seeks to recruit bank customers as money "mules".

Eastern European fraudsters are advertising for British people with UK-based bank accounts to act as agents to transfer money overseas, it has emerged.

The fraudsters have sent thousands of e-mails, and posted adverts on recruitment websites to attract the money "mules", with promises of easy money.

But the police are warning that people who sign up could see themselves prosecuted, as the money being transferred has been stolen.

Check for obvious spelling and grammar errors.

Experts say the scam is connected to a recent wave of attempts by tricksters to get hold of customers' online bank account details, by a method known as "phishing".

Agents needed

The adverts appear to offer the prospect of making some easy money by acting as a UK agent to a business overseas.

They are asked to receive funds into their account and then send the money - less a small commission - on overseas.

The message is - don't allow yourself to be duped
Detective Chief Superintendent Les Hynds

In one e-mail seen by BBC News Online, the recipient was offered a 7% cut of the proceeds.

But anyone signing up to act as an agent will in fact be transferring stolen money.

Apacs, which represents the payment industry, said the latest scam is connected to attempts to target online banking customers in recent months.

The people perpetrating the fraud are located outside the UK, so - since they cannot transfer money directly out of their victims' online account to their own accounts abroad - they need a UK intermediary.

Financial experts says the two-tier scam is indicative of a growing trend among criminals to target vulnerable consumers.

Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds at the National Hi-tech Crime Unit, said: "We know that many of these 'funds transfer scams' involve the proceeds of fraud and consumers who participate in these schemes are likely to become embroiled in a police investigation.

"The message is - don't allow yourself to be duped. Remember, if an unsolicited money-making offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is."

Easy targets

At least one major UK banking group says some of its customers may have been exposed to the new fraud.

Barclays is warning customers to be vigilant - and it has posted a notice on its website, alerting users.

Contact us and talk to us immediately if you get one of the emails
Barclays spokeswoman

It says it has so far received a very small number of phone calls from people who have inadvertently handed over their bank details to act as agents.

The bank's customers were among those targeted in an email scam earlier this year, which tried to con them into revealing confidential details of their accounts.

The e-mail sent to Barclays clients, under the guise of initiating a technical update of their account, took the customer to a page with a Barclays logo.

A spokeswoman warned people to be careful, and that people who used Barclays' accounts to transfer money would be subject to a police investigation.

"Contact us and talk to us immediately if you get one of the emails," she said.

"If it's offering you easy money it's likely to be too good to be true. Never divulge your bank details," Barclays added.

Lloyds TSB customers were targeted by a similar e-mail scam in September, but the bank said no fraud had been committed.

It also said that none of its customers had alerted it to the job offer scams.

Q&A: Online jobs scam
24 Oct 03  |  Business
Lloyds TSB e-mail scam alert
24 Sep 03  |  Business
Scam targets Barclays customers
13 Sep 03  |  Business

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