Europol arrested 1800 money mules as part of an anti-money-laundering operation

Europol identified 18,351 money mules and arrested 1,803 of them as part of an international anti-money-laundering operation codenamed EMMA 7.

Europol has identified 18,351 money mules and arrested 1,803 of them as part of an international anti-money-laundering operation codenamed EMMA 7.

The operation is the result of a joint effort of 27 countries, Eurojust, INTERPOL, the European Banking Federation (EBF), and the FinTech FinCrime Exchange

The name EMMA is an acronym for European Money Mule Action operation, the first EMMA operation led by Europol took place in 2016.

The EMMA 7 operation was conducted between September 15 and November 30, 2021, it saw the contribution of law enforcement agencies from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, United Kingdom, United States.

The money mules have a crucial role in criminal organizations to launder money for a wide array of illegal activities, such as online scams, sim-swapping, e-commerce fraud, and phishing. Money mules receive and transfer money on behalf of crooks in exchange for a small fee.

“The operation resulted in 1 803 arrests and the identification of over 18 000 money mules.” reads the press release published by Europol. “It also revealed that money mules were being used to launder money for a wide array of online scams such as sim-swapping, man in the middle attacks, e-commerce fraud and phishing.”

The authorities conducted 2,503 individual investigations, the operation prevented losses of €67.5 million by stopping 7,000 fraudulent transactions that were reported. According to Europol, around 400 banks and financial institutions supported the operation.

Another important result was the identification of 324 recruiters.

Europol pointed out that money mules can be recruited unknowingly into the criminal operation. Groups of individuals such as students, immigrants, and people in economic distress, are a privileged target of recruiters that offer them easy money. Recruiters leverage multiple channels, such as legitimate-looking job adverts and social media posts.

“Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to the law and money muling; they are breaking the law by laundering the illicit proceeds of crime. For this reason, Europol coordinated the ‘#DontBeAMule’ awareness campaign with all participant countries, law enforcement and the EBF on behalf of the European banks, as a means to prevent more innocent bystanders being exploited by criminals and putting themselves at risk.” concludes the press release.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Europol)

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Pierluigi Paganini: Pierluigi Paganini is member of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group and Cyber G7 Group, he is also a Security Evangelist, Security Analyst and Freelance Writer. Editor-in-Chief at "Cyber Defense Magazine", Pierluigi is a cyber security expert with over 20 years experience in the field, he is Certified Ethical Hacker at EC Council in London. The passion for writing and a strong belief that security is founded on sharing and awareness led Pierluigi to find the security blog "Security Affairs" recently named a Top National Security Resource for US. Pierluigi is a member of the "The Hacker News" team and he is a writer for some major publications in the field such as Cyber War Zone, ICTTF, Infosec Island, Infosec Institute, The Hacker News Magazine and for many other Security magazines. Author of the Books "The Deep Dark Web" and “Digital Virtual Currency and Bitcoin”.

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