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OPP, CAFC, and RCMP raise awareness about ‘money mules’ in Canada

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According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), 2021 was a historic year for reported frauds, with losses totalling $380 million. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the CAFC, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are launching a campaign this month, from June 6 to 10, 2022, to raise awareness about how fraudsters are using unsuspecting victims as ‘money mules’ to launder funds and proceeds of crime.

According to a release from the OPP, the historic losses of 2021 were a dramatic increase from $164 million in losses in 2020, and it is estimated that only 5 per cent of victims report their frauds to law enforcement or the CAFC.

“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,” said Sergeant Guy Paul Larocque, Officer in Charge, CAFC. “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.”

With this sharp increase in reported frauds, and the noticeable prevalence of money mules, the organizations want to educate Canadians on the various frauds that utilize money mules, in addition to providing general awareness to prevent victimization, according to the release.

What is a money mule?

“A money mule is an individual who is recruited by fraudsters to serve as a middle person to transfer stolen money,” OPP said. “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.”

According to the OPP, the money is often transferred using bank wire transfers, email money transfers, 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 much more, police said.

A money mule is used in the money laundering process, which is an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jun. 8, 2022, the CAFC and OPP are hosting a live chat on social media discussing money mules and related frauds. OPP said guest speakers will include Intelligence Researcher/Profiler, Nancy Cahill, CAFC, Liaison Officer Acting Detective Sergeant John Armit, CAFC and more.

“Financial crimes, including money laundering, are a serious problem that plagues our communities. Fraudsters prey on vulnerable members of society, and exploit people’s fear and lack of financial expertise,” explained Detective Superintendent Dominic Chong, Director of Financial Crime Services, OPP. “The best way to protect yourself is to learn more about frauds, and be aware and cautious in your financial dealings. The Ontario Provincial Police is proud to be a partner in the CAFC, and to contribute to the fight against financial crimes through public education sessions such as this. Fraud – Recognize it, Report it, Stop it.”

The partners will also be sharing more information, tips and links to various resources through their social media platforms, OPP stated. The public is encouraged to engage in the conversation to help recognize, reject and report frauds by using the hashtags #DontBeAMule, #kNOwFraud, #Take5, and #Tell2.

“Fraud is a criminal offence in Canada, with real victims and real impacts,” stated Chris Lynam, Director General of the CAFC and National Cybercrime Coordination Unit, RCMP. “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.”

If you are the victim of a scam, fraud or cybercrime, OPP ask you to please contact your local police. It is also essential that you report an incident, whether you are a victim or not, to the CAFC via their Online Reporting System or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

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