Hundreds of Kiwis inadvertently being used as money mules to launder foreign crime gangs' cash

Hundreds of Kiwis are inadvertently being used as money mules to launder cash earned by foreign crime gangs, some of which are dealing drugs or even people smuggling.

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Some of New Zealand’s biggest banks revealed the surprising number of customers affected. Source: 1 NEWS

The scammers talk victims into taking big deposits then withdraw the cash, or transfer the money through other accounts.

Some of New Zealand’s largest banks today revealed the surprising number of customers affected, with everyday Kiwis becoming victims of sophisticated scams.

"I had been scammed for $200,000-plus," Greg* said.

"I was one of those people that you hear about, they've been scammed," Jane* added. "There's a part of you that blames yourself, but you know that there's someone else that's actually done this to you and that someone else does not give a sh*t."

Detective Senior Sergeant Bridget Doell said people "are ashamed" of having fallen prey to the gangs.

"They don't want to admit that they might have been duped or scammed, and the main thing is 'don't be ashamed, come forward with your story, report to the police, to your bank,'" Ms Doell said.

In one year, ANZ has seen more than 800 cases involving money mules, up nearly 70 per cent on last year. However, the payments from the scams, totalling around $7.3 million, are just the ones they know about.

"What we're seeing reported to police is the tip of the iceberg," she said.

The country's largest bank is teaching its staff how to identify potential victims.

"As you can imagine, if a customer's talking to a fraudster, they're convinced to send a payment. Then, if they've logged into their internet banking, they've created and authorised the payment, it makes it very difficult for the bank to say, 'Oh, this must be a scam' because the customer's sort of gone the whole way through the process," ANZ senior fraud manager Natasha McFlinn said.

Other banks also told 1 NEWS money muleing has more than doubled this year to levels not seen before.

While the banks all use technology to try and identify scams, the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) says the best method to prevent customers losing money is to delay offshore transactions.

"We're seeing in the UK that they actually have created a scheme where they're holding funds for 24 hours now, where you have a new payee and to send the money away, and I actually think that's a good idea," CFFC fraud education manager Bronwyn Groot said.

While police here have a specialised team working to catch money mules, Ms Doell said it's important for people to remain vigilant.

"Be very mindful of any engagement with people on the phone offering you any money or to move money," Ms Doell said.

Anyone who suspects another person is attempting to scam them has been advised to contact their bank or the police.

* names have been changed