Criminals targeting people in financial and IT sectors to act as ‘money mules’
Many of today’s fraudsters have migrated online
Employees at three major financial institutions are under investigation over suspected links to crime gangs involved in cyber frauds and money laundering.
The three young adults — a woman and two men — separately came to the attention of gardaí investigating the rising phenomenon of online frauds and scams. The three are unconnected, but all have third-level qualifications and are currently working as junior employees in three different financial institutions, say sources close to the investigation.
One of the three came to the attention of gardaí as a suspected ‘money mule’ — someone who allows criminals to use their bank account to store money for cash.
A second bank employee came on the garda radar during an investigation into an invoice redirect fraud — a scam in which businesses are tricked into transferring funds into bank accounts controlled by criminals.
A third remains under investigation for suspicious activity.
All three would have access to sensitive customer data, but garda sources say it is not known whether any confidential information was actually shared.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) suspects the cases follow an emerging pattern in economic crime — in which well-educated young people, with no criminal records, are being targeted or deliberately “planted” in jobs that give them access to confidential customer data.
This data can then be either exploited or sold on the black market to facilitate online frauds.
As well as the bank workers, gardaí are also currently investigating three employees of large IT companies.
One of the three employees — a suspected money mule — works for an international tech firm in Dublin and has a qualification in cyber security. Gardaí discovered the employee’s bank account details during a search of the home of a suspected money mule recruiter.
“You would have to suspect there is a pattern,” said one senior source.
The practice of criminal groupings using “plants” came to police notice over the last two years. One former bank employee has been convicted in relation to these scams.
Tomi Jinad, a 24-year-old customer service representative with KBC Bank in south Dublin, received a suspended sentence last year after he was caught facilitating online frauds. Jinad deactivated a security feature on 26 customer bank accounts which removed the need for an authorisation code.
He passed on the account details to people he did not identify. This resulted in more than 100 fraudulent transactions on those customer accounts, ranging from €100 to €500. The customers were reimbursed by KBC.
Jinad’s legal team told Dublin District Court he expected to be paid for facilitating the fraud — but ultimately never received any money.
The GNECB is running around 40 policing operations investigating online frauds and cyber-enabled crimes, and targeting the primarily young people who allow their accounts to be used to launder the proceeds of these frauds.
More than 1,000 young people have been identified by the investigating team led by Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan and Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan, of the GNECB.
They include 51 young people and teenagers in Kerry, believed to have been recruited as money mules by a local 18-year-old.
Gardaí said that an average of one ‘money mule’ a day is being arrested, as fraud detectives intensify their investigations into the laundering of the proceeds of online crimes.
In Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last week, Judge Melanie Greally commented on the “proliferation of young men in particular” coming before her for these offences.
She was commenting on the sentencing of 23-year-old Tallaght man Aaron McGuirk, who was paid €1,000 to accept €23,000 into his bank account. The money was diverted by criminals from a business in Thailand.
She handed down a suspended sentence of two-and-a-half years and ordered that McGuirk pay €2,000 to the Peter McVerry Trust.
Research by the Irish Banking Payments Federation showed that €12m has been moved through bank accounts in money mule transactions over nine months last year.
By Maeve Sheehan, June 13, 2021, published on the Independent.ie