Police warn against falling into property mule scam

POLICE are issuing a warning to unsuspecting members of the community who are being targeted by criminals and used as property mules and in the process, may be committing crimes themselves.

Investigators from the State Crime Operations Command's Fraud and Corporate Crime Group have seen a sharp rise in the amount of people engaged by fraudsters via social networking, religious chat rooms and internet dating sites for the sole purpose of being used to facilitate crimes.

"We see a large amount of people who become friends with a person overseas and are convinced to allow their homes to be the delivery point for goods purchased by the overseas entities who tell them it is cheaper to purchase the goods in Australia," Detective Superintendent Brian Hay of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group said.

The victims are then asked to on-send the delivered goods to the person overseas - generally West African countries.

What these people don't know is they are being exploited as international property mules.

"What the mule doesn't know is that the goods are being purchased on compromised or stolen credit cards," Det Supt Hay said.

"The business selling the goods loses out and the mule is quite often out of pocket for the shipping costs.

"They are also enabling a crime to occur and receiving property as party to a crime and may well find themselves answering questions from us."

Police say the most important thing to remember is not to enter into any type of financial transaction with someone you do not know or have not met in person without doing thorough and third party checks, regardless of how simple or innocent it may sound.