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The big "money mule" problem in South Africa

The South African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has issued a statement alerting the public to the dangers of being recruited as a "money mule."

A "money mule" is someone whose bank account is used by another person or entity.

This type of fraud is enabled by technology such as biometric identification, and results in the implication of innocent bystanders.

"People on street corners are recruited as money mules with the promise of quick payments for the use of their bank account," said SAFPS executive director Manie van Schalkwyk.

These "money mules" are used by others knowingly or unknowingly, and will usually be recruited by someone who does not have a bank account or wants to make a payment invisible.

This problem has become so prevalent in South Africa that the SAFPS has opened a new category of fraud specifically to deal with the issue.

"The danger for the consumer is that they are complicit in a criminal act and will be getting themselves involved with a fraudster," van Schalkwyk said.

"It might look like easy money, but the victim has no idea what the money is being used for and is often for illegal gains and even human trafficking."

In South Africa, most people are recruited at street corners, but this problem is prevalent around the world, with many of the recruits occurring over the internet.

"There's nothing 'easy' about this money," van Schalkwyk said.

"When you allow the use of your bank account as the middleman for a third party bank you are in violation of your contract of account with the bank, and will be recorded as a mule money."

"You could be looking at a criminal record for life, and worse be a party to the devastating crime of human trafficking."

The SAFPS said it is working closely with local banks to maximize security and awareness around this type of fraud.

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