I’ve spent the day preparing slides, and as you know I do love a good story to illustrate a point. And my searches have thrown up a rather sad little one – but good for training because it’s not big and fancy, it’s not PEPs and governments, it’s your mum or your gran (and – more to the point – the mums or grans of your staff). According to the story today in the Leicester Mercury (what do you mean, you let your subscription lapse?), pensioner Beryl Crofts was contacted online by someone purporting to be a US soldier serving in Afghanistan. He wooed her remotely, and then asked her for money – no doubt some sob story – and Beryl fell for it, send thousands of pounds to his account in Nigeria. The article says that the police warned her that it was probably a scam, so I’m guessing that her bank spotted the strange transactions and made a SAR. Beryl, being in love, ignored them and carried on sending him money. The fraudster, sensing an easy target, then persuaded Beryl to help some friends of his to get their money moving to accounts in Nigeria as well; what he didn’t tell her was that she was actually laundering the proceeds of fraud. And the poor woman moved £122,000 out to Nigeria before the whole thing was closed down. The police were reluctant to prosecute, seeing Beryl as more of a victim, but they had no choice – and today she was handed a four-month suspended prison sentence for money laundering.
As I say, it’s a great story for training. It’s plain and ordinary, it shows the escalation of the scheme, and it illustrates the dangers of combining access to the world’s financial systems (which anyone who banks online now has) with financial (and perhaps emotional) naïvety. It also shows what an important role the provider of that access has to play: monitoring of Beryl’s bank account provided the initial warning (albeit ignored), and almost certainly the evidence to underpin the prosecution. Here’s hoping that they catch the real villains of the piece before too many more Beryls go through an ordeal like this.