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Free video from APWG to help prevent money muling schemes

Anti-Phishing Working Group : 06 April, 2009  (Company News)
In an attempt to prevent job seekers unwittingly becoming involved in money-laundering activities, the Anti-Phishing Working Group has launched an education initiative for consumers
The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) has announced a new public education initiative to deliver free counter-crime video instruction to consumers. The video instructs consumers about how to avoid 'money muling' schemes that induct jobseekers into purported clerical jobs. These 'jobs' actually are money-laundering mechanisms that electronic crime gangs have organized. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Booz Allen Hamilton have joined APWG in this effort.

This industrial and non-profit troika is working in response to what is perceived in the United States and Europe as a precipitous increase in money "muling" operations. Unwitting job seekers transfer the proceeds of phishing attacks and other electronic crimes, receive and re-ship fraudulently acquired merchandise, cash fraudulent checks and receive wire transfers at payments storefronts, and then ship the proceeds to out-of-country gangs.

"Money mules have become an essential part of the organized electronic crime plexus, ever more important as bank security systems have become increasingly adept at identifying and stopping fraudulent transfers and thwarting the transfer of funds from compromised accounts," said APWG Secretary General Peter Cassidy. "The first step to slowing the expansion of muling operations is to educate consumers and job seekers about how to identify them and the serious legal consequences of falling prey to them."

The APWG's Counter Muling Project development team is now developing a series of video podcasts for distribution among our member companies and agencies, research partners, government agencies, trade and law enforcement associations, and electronic media, along with commerce websites featuring these jobs advertisements. APWG and NCSA are developing content (e.g., interviewing muling victims), and Booz Allen is providing production assistance and expertise.

The team is developing five to seven discrete electronic educational instruments to be distributed in broad media campaigns, some of which the AWPG envisions as being delivered in a just-in-time modality. For example, the APWG/CMU Phishing Education Landing Page Program delivers counter-phishing instruction to consumers who have clicked links in phishing e-mails to decommissioned phishing websites (instead of a page) not found in the message.

Muling has increasingly drawn ordinary consumers—especially job seekers—into the employ of organized e-crime enterprises, specifically to facilitate the movement of cash and bearer instruments (e.g., money orders) to deliver liquid assets to phishing gangs that have completed a successful phishing scheme or an identity theft scam and are ready to extract value from the accounts and credit lines they have co-opted. Last month, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a release that warned that its Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) had been receiving "numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to work-at-home scams."

By inducting ordinary consumers into their scheme, organized e-crime rings are able to complete their crimes (moving cash and bearer instruments across international frontiers) and are, for the nonce, complicating law enforcements' efforts to pursue them. Simultaneously, e-crime rings place people they regard as disposable assets directly into the path of law enforcement personnel who not only are investigating these e-crimes but also will be holding these people accountable for laundering money stolen from the accounts co-opted during the phishing and identity theft scams.

"Given the current economic climate, cyber-criminals have a target rich environment in which to entice otherwise law-abiding citizens into their illegal activities. Our experience has shown that focused training programs provide people with the information they need to avoid becoming unwitting accomplices to criminal activity. This program leverages those principles to disrupt a key tactic that cyber-criminals use," said Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President Bob Post.

"If an online solicitation seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. "As always, we strongly urge all consumers to always guard their private information very closely. Prior to divulging any information, you must be able to determine who is asking you for the information, why they would need it and what they would use it for."
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