Nowadays, fraudsters employ various deception methods, especially those that do not involve face-to-face interaction. One such method is the use of ‘mule accounts’ or the creation of fictitious accounts without a real owner, which are used for illegal money laundering or to deceive people into making transfers. This article will explore the dangers of mule accounts and how eKYC can be employed as a countermeasure.
What is a Mule Account?
A mule account is a bank account opened with the intention of committing illegal activities such as transferring or receiving funds, or specifically for money laundering purposes. Typically, the holders of these mule accounts are not the actual owners. Fraudsters may recruit ordinary people to open accounts on their behalf, or they might impersonate the real owners by stealing personal information like names, national identification numbers, and phone numbers.
Why are mule account prevention measures important for businesses?
As we know, mule accounts are currently one of the illegal methods used by fraudsters, with dangers ranging from individual impacts to national security, including:
1. Scamming people through call centers
Nowadays, there are various forms of scams, especially online, where criminals pose as call center agents, calling victims with various pretenses to deceive and manipulate them into transferring money into the criminals’ mule accounts. Often, these call center scams are operated from neighboring countries, making it difficult to trace the criminals.
2. Used as accounts to receive money for loan insurance
Another common form of deception using mule accounts found in loan applications and messaging apps is where the perpetrator deceives victims seeking loans. They claim that in order to receive the loan, the borrower must first pay insurance. Once the victim transfers the money, the criminal absconds with it immediately.
3. Laundering money for criminals
One of the primary reasons for creating mule accounts is to launder illicit funds to escape financial tracking by law enforcement. If the laundered amount is excessively large, it could distort the economy, potentially leading to issues such as inflation.
Penalties for Opening Mule Accounts
Mule accounts are considered illegal by law. The Royal Decree on the Prevention and Suppression of Technology Crimes, B.E. 2566 (2023), stipulates that owners of mule accounts or mule numbers can be sentenced to imprisonment for no more than 3 years or fined up to 300,000 baht, or both. Additionally, those involved in the business of arranging, advertising for the sale, or facilitating the entry or lending of deposit accounts or electronic cards registered in someone else’s name but who cannot identify the user, are subject to imprisonment ranging from 2 to 5 years or fines from 200,000 to 500,000 baht, or both.
For those who are hired to open accounts or allow others to use their accounts, they will be charged with complicity in committing a crime and supporting money laundering offenses. They will be penalized according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, B.E. 2542 (1999), with imprisonment ranging from 1 to 10 years and fines from 20,000 to 200,000 baht, or both imprisonment and fines.
eKYC Identity Verification: A Technological Solution to Combat the Issue of ‘Money Mule’ Accounts
The advent of technology has brought about various tools to combat fraud, one of which is the eKYC identity verification system. This technology provides an effective means to tackle the issue of ‘money mule’ accounts, which are often used for illegal money laundering and scams.
eKYC, short for Electronic Know Your Customer, is a comprehensive digital identity verification system. It incorporates a range of technologies to streamline the verification process, allowing operators to verify identities anytime, anywhere, with just a mobile screen.
One of the technologies employed in eKYC identity verification is FACE RECOGNITION & LIVENESS DETECTION. This system checks the authenticity of a face, protecting against the use of fake images or impersonation. eKYC incorporates Anti-Spoofing Liveness Detection technology, which accurately and swiftly verifies a person’s facial identity. It also detects the use of DeepFake technology, which can create fraudulent representations of someone else’s face.
In summary, it’s evident that the creation of “mule accounts” is a dangerous form of deception that can affect anyone in today’s society. An effective way to combat this issue is through eKYC identity verification. Not only is eKYC convenient, catering to the needs of modern individuals, but it also employs technologies that provide rapid and accurate protection against facial impersonation.