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FDIC warns of rise in "money mule" schemes

Criminals dupe people into receiving and transferring unauthorized EFTs from business bank accounts

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued an alert Thursday about an increase in scams that recruit "money mules" to siphon money from bank accounts through fraudulent electronic funds transfers.

Criminals recruit money mules over the Internet with bogus work offers and use them to receive unauthorized EFTs, such as ACH and wire transfers, from a business online bank account. The mule is then instructed to quickly withdraw the money and wire it overseas after deducting a "commission" of 8% to 10%, according to the FDIC.

The agency warned on Aug. 26 about increased reports of fraudulent EFTs hitting banks' business customers. Most of the fraudulent transfers involved customers whose online banking software credentials were compromised.

In its alert Thursday, the FDIC described patterns of possible money mule activity for financial institutions to watch out for, including: a deposit account opened with a minimal deposit quickly followed by large EFT deposits; a newly opened deposit account with an unusual amount of activity; and deposit customers who suddenly begin receiving and sending EFTs related to new employment or investments.

"Money mule activity is essentially electronic money laundering addressed by the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering Regulations," the FDIC said. "Strong customer identification, customer due diligence, and high-risk account monitoring procedures are essential for detecting suspicious activity, including money mule accounts."

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