Police are warning Watford residents about money laundering scams which specifically target young people.
There is recent intelligence to suggest that people in the town, mainly aged in their late teens and early twenties, are being approached by criminals who offer payment in exchange for the illegal use of their bank account.
Once victims’ hand over their details, large sums of cash are paid into their account before it is then moved into further accounts or withdrawn in cash. This is also referred to as ‘money muling’.
However, victims are often not paid as first agreed, or are paid significantly less than initially promised. Often, when the large sums are transferred or withdrawn from the account the account holder’s own funds are also removed, leaving them out of pocket.
In addition, people who allow criminals to launder money through their bank accounts could end up with a criminal conviction of their own. Remember:
• It is a criminal offence and police will actively pursue and prosecute anyone involved in money laundering activity.
• If you hand over your bank cards to anyone, you will be held responsible for whatever happens with your account – even if they go beyond what you agreed to.
• If convicted of a money laundering offence you will be liable to repay any losses, which could end up being a far greater sum than anything you were paid previously.
• If your bank suspects you are involved in money laundering offences, they will close your account and you may not be able to open another account. This will also affect your ability to be approved for loans, mortgages and credit cards.
• If you are convicted of fraud or money laundering offences, it will affect your ability to find work because you will need to disclose your conviction to any future employers.
• The bank does not automatically cover losses – these funds are stolen from individuals, businesses and charities who suffer real financial hardship as a result of this type of crime.
Watford Chief Inspector Matt Phillips said: “With the summer holidays upon us, there will be an increase in the number of young people out and about in the town, no doubt socialising with friends and enjoying the pleasant weather.
“However, we have had reports that young people have recently been approached in Watford town centre by people who engage them in apparently innocent conversation before trying to persuade them to hand over their bank details in exchange for a monetary fee.
“When victims discover they aren’t being paid as promised they are often subjected to intimidation, threats and even assaults if they don’t continue to allow the offenders to move money through their account. They often lose total control over the situation but are still accountable for the transactions that occur.
“Anyone participating in money laundering is breaking the law and could face serious consequences. Never agree to receive money into your account from people you do not know.
“If you are approached, please contact us and provide as many details as possible as it will help us continue to build our intelligence picture around this type of crime.
“I would ask parents and carers to share this information with their children and ensure they are aware of the signs to look out for, and what to do if they are approached.
“The possibility of earning some money may be tempting but the impact of this type of crime is far-reaching and could have a long-lasting negative effect on victims. It’s not worth it.”
If you are approached or have any information about this type of criminality, please contact Hertfordshire Constabulary.
You can report information online at herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via online web chat here or call our non-emergency number 101.