Gift cards, wire transfers used to launder money

According to court documents, riders were instructed to use the self-checkout lanes to avoid scrutiny from store employees. A busy runner might visit more than a dozen stores a day, spreading out his purchases to avoid suspicion. A runner told law enforcement officers she got the job through an online ad and ended up spending $10,000 in gift card codes a day. Its cut ? About $200 to $300.

While gift cards are particularly popular among scammers these days, scammers launder money in several other ways. Increasingly, they are getting targets for using cryptocurrency, digital funds like Bitcoin that are easy to hide and almost impossible for authorities to trace. Scammers are directing their brands to one of the increasingly available cryptocurrency ATMs popping up in supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores, says John Buzzard, chief fraud and security analyst for Javelin Strategy. and Research. These funds can be laundered on the digital ledger that tracks cryptocurrency transactions, called the blockchain, and can easily be hidden from authorities, adds Buzzard.

Cash remains popular with many scammers. “There are countless ways” for criminals to launder hard currency, says anti-money laundering expert Jack D. Smith, who teaches at George Washington University School of Law. Shell companies that handle a lot of money — from nightclubs to car washes or laundromats — can be used to mix fraud money with legitimate revenue. Or the money can be smuggled overseas.

Other scammers convince targets to transfer the money through Western Union or other similar companies. Once it is sent, the recipient’s scammer collects the funds and leaves. It is illegal for any telemarketer to ask you to pay by wire transfer, notes the Federal Trade Commission. If someone tries to convince you to send a wire to buy something, hang up the phone.

Michael N. Clark