We Fight Fraud

Member Article

Covid makes criminals go cashless, threatening UK businesses

New research has revealed that criminals now prefer to receive bank transfers over cash and are trading on social media - alarming businesses who are unwittingly being used to launder money.

We Fight Fraud (WFF) has used its unique access to the criminal underworld to discover how Covid-19 is transforming business within the illicit economy. The findings include a move towards transacting the proceeds of crime via bank transfers and trading illegal goods on social media. This will alarm legitimate businesses, especially banks and FinTech organisations, who are being used to launder money, in breach of the regulations governing them. Legitimate businesses are also being used to facilitate fraud. The implications of the findings will be published in a whitepaper, to be discussed at the We Fight Fraud Live conference on 28th April – a free to attend, virtual event for business professionals, supported by fraud prevention specialists, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions.

Dr Nicola Harding, WFF Advisor and academic specialising in fraud, is lead author of the whitepaper. She explained: “The operational changes we found mirror those experienced by legitimate businesses during the pandemic, who reported a dramatic decrease in the use of cash. We found that the preferred option for criminals is now bank transfers, while some are also using PayPal or premium rate telephone numbers to send funds”.

The white paper’s findings also demonstrate how significant social media has become in connecting the legitimate economy with the underworld. Simon, 26, who works in IT, shared with the WFF researcher the process of buying cannabis from a page on Instagram. He paid by bank transfer and the drugs were delivered to his house via Royal Mail – all within 36 hours.

Researchers from We Fight Fraud spoke to people involved in deviant and criminal commerce to understand the extent to which criminal and legal networks are entwined.

Tony Sales, dubbed ‘Britain’s Greatest Fraudster’ by the Sun newspaper – who now helps household-name brands avoid fraud explained; “Criminal behaviour has adapted, innovated and evolved during the current crisis. There was an assumption that the decline of cash would make life more difficult for criminals. Our findings show that the reverse is true.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Katherine Adams .

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