The use by banks of biometrics (fingerprint identification) to verify account holders has brought greater security to minimise identity theft and impersonation, but has also led to a rise in the use of "money mules" by fraudsters, the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) says. Photographer: ALLEN BRISSON-SMITH/Bloomberg

JOHANNESBURG - The use by banks of biometrics (fingerprint identification) to verify account holders has brought greater security to minimise identity theft and impersonation, but has also led to a rise in the use of "money mules" by fraudsters, the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) says.

Money mules are used, knowingly or unknowingly, by other people who either do not have their own bank accounts or wish to make a transaction invisible. 

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

"The danger for the consumer is that they are complicit in a criminal act and will be getting themselves involved with a fraudster. It might look like easy money, but the victim has no idea what the money is being used for and it is often for illegal gains and even human trafficking.”

While recruiting is sometimes at street level in South Africa, in other parts of the world much of it happens in cyber space.

Van Schalkwyk said members of the public should be vigilant about random offers of quick money in shopping centres and other public places as well as online offers of jobs that promise easy money.

“When you allow the use of your banking account as the middleman for third party banking you are in breach of your contract of account with the bank, and will be on record as a money mule," he said.

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

He said SAFPS was working closely with all the banks "to ensure maximum security and awareness to make sure we take control of this growing fraud epidemic".

- African News Agency (ANA)