Cyber-enabled crime: the new frontier of global money laundering


Cyber-enabled crimes have been defined as traditional crimes, which can be increased in their scale or reach by use of computers, computer networks, or other forms of information communications technology (ICT). Two of the most widely published instances of cyber-enabled crime relate to fraud and theft.  Cyber-enabled financial crime is a smaller subset of cybercrime and includes crimes with a financial end goal: ransomware, sextortion schemes, identity theft, money laundering, etc.


Cyberlaundering as is an example of a cyber-enabled financial crime refers to the way technology and the internet is used to launder illegal proceeds of crime to make such proceeds appear clean. The internet has provided various avenues exploited by criminals to clean laundered money and recycle it back into the financial system. Prevalent avenues include online banking, online gambling, e-gaming, online auctioning, and digital payment methods. Money laundering now wears the cloak of cyber laundering. Cyberlaundering can be achieved through the following:

  1. Social Media: fraudsters use social media platforms to persuade the public to deposit funds into their bank accounts.
  2. Identity Theft: this involves the use of a victim’s name or identity to commit crimes. Identification and financial details of a person are obtained through various methods such as phishing through electronic media, voice calls or instant text messaging platforms. The information is then used to commit offenses including credit or ATM card fraud and unauthorized transfers using internet banking.
  3. Online Gambling: There are online platforms facilitating gambling by means including poker, casinos and sports betting and some criminals make money through these options and transfer the ill-gotten proceeds to bank accounts to make them legitimate.
  4. Business Email Compromise: Here, unsuspecting victims are fraudulently prompted over email from apparently genuine people to transfer money to accounts related to criminals. Company names similar to that of the victim and forged documents are used gain trust.
  5. International Wire Transfer Fraud (Money Mules): This is a crime trend started in early 2012 where criminals hacked into the email accounts of victims to send fraudulent instructions to the victims’ banks to transfer funds to bank accounts in another country. In some cases, victims fell for scams, including internet love scams, and made the transfer of funds at the criminals’ instruction.
  6. Online Lottery Scam: Under this fraudulent scheme, a victim is deceived by a criminal who pretends to be coordinating an online lottery program, often in the name of a reputable organization. The victim is asked to send a certain amount to the criminal’s bank account to release the winning lottery cheque.

Some ways in which the new-age money laundering schemes can be tackled include:

  1. Improve domestic coordination between the Agencies responsible for cybercrime and ML/TF.
  2. Enact legislation to provide for cybercrime or technology-related offenses.
  3. Promote new-generation anti-money laundering software with a multi-dimensional detection approach within financial institutions.
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