Jasmin* is a babysitter in Perth who has had an advert on a popular babysitting and nanny site since 2018.
Last Sunday, she received an email from ‘Lisa’ asking how much she charged for her services.
‘Lisa’ claimed she had a “hearing impairment”, so would prefer to correspond via WhatsApp or email.
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She then claimed she was moving from Brisbane to Perth, but wanted to book Jasmin’s services in advance and she would transfer $1000 to her account.
Jasmin thought it was a little odd, but she was not unaccustomed to dealing with clients who had a fair amount of cash and wanted to ensure they could lock in a babysitting service by paying in advance.
Lisa asked if she could pay through Stripe, a payment software often used by businesses to manage payments.
Then Lisa asked Jasmin for a favour. She wanted to send her $4000 to pass on to the house movers as “the movers don’t accept credit cards”.
This is the point Jasmin realised Lisa was a scammer and she was trying to use her as a money mule, transferring funds from other victims’ accounts, through Jasmin’s to her own.
She contacted Stripe to cancel the $1000 initial payment she received and she reported the incident to Report Cyber.
She also contacted IDCARE as she had given the scammer her driver licence and we provided advice on what steps she could take to protect her identity going further.
Jasmin is lucky that she had heard of money muling and recognised a scam before it escalated. Many don’t.
She was the third conversation I had this week with someone who had been tricked into becoming a money mule for a scammer.
The other two cases involved people who were caught up in relationship scams and believed the various reasons the person they thought they were in love with was giving for transferring money between accounts.
As one of our clients, let’s call him Barry, explained, “love is blind”.
“In this day and age, people are lonely. It is as simple as that,” he said.
“It’s hard to say how you educate people around it as people will do what they believe in. If I believe I’m on a good thing and I like her, doesn’t matter what she does, I don’t believe that part of it.”
Typically, money muling scams are romance scams or employment scams with jobs advertised online offering easy “commissions”.
The consequences can be devastating. The bank wanted to repossess Barry’s home and he could have faced police prosecution. Ignorance is no longer a good enough excuse to escape consequences.
Scammers need Australian bank accounts to launder their money through and they are now taking it to another level, approaching clients directly off babysitting sites.
- Jasmin is not her real name. Lisa was the name used by the scammer, but it is probably not her real name either.
Kathy Sundstrom is a former Sunshine Coast Daily journalist who now works at identity and cyber support service IDCARE.
Originally published as How scammers approached a babysitter to be a money mule