In an article about cybercrimes on social media apps a picture of hands typing on a laptop
It's important for internet users to be aware of how dangerous cybercriminals can exploit innocent people through social media apps. (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya from Unsplash)

Social Media Apps Are the Perfect Platforms for Digital Deception

Cybercrime rates have exploded since the onset of the pandemic, encompassing everything from identity fraud to even some of the most classic of crimes.

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In an article about cybercrimes on social media apps a picture of hands typing on a laptop

Cybercrime rates have exploded since the onset of the pandemic, encompassing everything from identity fraud to even some of the most classic of crimes.

You open the social media apps on your phone and scroll through your feeds. After a few swipes, you see an ad for a work-from-home position as a “payments clerk.” With your interest piqued, you continue reading to discover the position pays $1,500 a week. Needing no further incentive, you reach out and send your resume to the contact email provided.

No less than five minutes later, you receive a response that contains a simple questionnaire with the standard “Why would you be a good fit for this company?” and “What made you apply for this position?” questions. You send off the completed form, and much like before, you receive a near-instant response, yet this one includes a job offer and a list of required documents.

The prospect of making easy money has excitement coursing through your veins. You quickly compile the requested information needed from new employees, like two forms of identification and your bank details. Once that’s received, the recruiter states that in order to receive a commission for your work in overseeing money transfers, you’ll need to open a cryptocurrency account and a savings account with your current bank.

Having zero self-preservation, you do as you’re told yet find it odd when the first deposit isn’t made to the savings account you were asked to open but to your personal one instead. You contact the recruiter to let them know; however, instead of being applauded for catching the error, they warn you against making any further inquiries. Congratulations, you have officially become an active participant in a money laundering scam.

That’s right, you, along with a staggering number of struggling students, are now affiliated with a digital money laundering scheme. COVID-19 unleashed unprecedented changes to our world and generated equally unheard of adaptations to these changes. One post-pandemic modification resulted in the digital retrofitting of a classic crime. Back-alley meetups converted to digital dealings over social media apps, the perfect conduit for a cybercrime spree.

So, what happens if the financial institution you have an account with finds it odd that their ramen-loving, paycheck-to-paycheck living client is suddenly making substantially large deposits? Your account freezes, an investigation ensues and your involvements are determined. If it’s deemed you were involved, the authorities will be contacted, and you will be added to the National Fraud Database. This effectively takes away your eligibility to open a bank account, apply for any kind of loan or even sign a contract for a new phone.

Upon arrest, you’ll be charged with money laundering and could face a sentence of up to 14 years. Your attempt to work from home has now earned you days of manual labor and nights cozying up to your cellmate Big Jon. Nobody wants that — except maybe Big Jon.

Law enforcement agencies adamantly claim that their main objective isn’t to apprehend scam victims but to capture the individuals who funnel illegally acquired money. The best way to avoid falling prey to any of these cons is to be aware of what to watch out for.

There are two main tactics in which social media is harnessed as a means of locating the next potential target. The first plays out much like the scenario just described: fraudsters using fake job ads as bait. The second method utilizes apps like Instagram and Snapchat in a less deceptive yet nonetheless corrupt manner.

It begins with a seemingly innocent message from a user with a name somewhere along the lines of FastCash. In the message’s brief text, accompanied by an image filled with stacks of hundred-dollar bills, they ask if you’d like to make some quick cash. Upon your reply, they give you a mutated sales pitch, the essence of which being you could earn up to $5,000 by just providing your bank details. However, this quickly escalates.

What follows hinges on what personal information can be gleaned about you and whether it can be manipulated to appear incriminating, thus becoming leverage for blackmail. If that fails, you’ll be subjected to some good old-fashioned coercion.

Both options result in you providing your bank information, after which a deposit is made and then immediately withdrawn from your account. However, there’s an even grimmer fate that awaits you if you get caught before any of the money can be withdrawn. If the bank manages to seize the deposited funds, the bank will hold you accountable while a criminal organization demands payment. Either way, you’ve once again played a key role in a money laundering scheme.

You and the other victims of these crimes aggravated by social media apps are now classified as money mules. A money mule is an individual that aids in the transportation or movement of illegally gained proceeds on behalf of someone else. 43% of all money mules are 18 to 24 years old. But being a money mule doesn’t equate to being a victim, so it is crucial to retain any relevant evidence to support any claim of innocence.

The bleak reality is that there is no stopping this crime trend without systematically restructuring the way social media operates. But let’s face it, the creator of most of these apps, a man whose name is synonymous with scumbag, will never sanction that.

It’s unsurprising that none of the major social media companies have made any efforts to help prevent online money laundering. Instead, the Facebook founder refuses to enforce regulations, insisting the preservation of free speech is more important. I fail to see how Cindy letting some perv buy her dirty socks or Jimmy selling his wife on the ‘gram constitutes as being freedom of expression. Way to stay septic, Zuckerberg.

If you or someone you know is a victim of money muling, contact your local FBI’s field office.

Writer Profile

Megan Heenan

Nevada State College
B.S. in Environmental & Resource Science, Minor in Professional Writing

Hello! My name is Megan. I’m originally from San Francisco, California, but now live in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m currently completing my last semester at Nevada State College. I love animals, photography, reading and gardening.

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