THE trade are being warned of a new internet scam that risks involving innocent dealers in money laundering – and can leave them with large bills to pay.
ATG became aware of what has been dubbed a "mule recruitment
scam" after hearing from a dealer who had been approached by a firm
claiming to represent serious buyers and sellers of art.
Antiquitaeten-Schwaighofer GmbH, claiming to be a company from
Austria of the same name, told her they wanted art and antiques
specialists to act as agents for clients who wished to retain their
"Payment process is the main dilemma. Generally people who sell
antique items desire to stay anonymous and don't disclose even
their bank account numbers," said the company's sales pitch.
This had led them to recruit what they called "financial
managers", whose main task is to act as a conduit for payments,
that include funds received for sold items and paying fees to the
suppliers. These payments are made via a fast money transfer
system, which also pays out commissions for overseeing the
The problem for any dealer signing up to be a 'financial manager'
is that they have no idea where the money they are paying out comes
from - or where payments they are collecting are going.
The scam can leave the dealer seriously out of pocket. This
happens in scams of this type because often the 'buyer' from whom
the financial manager collects the payment never receives the
By the time they discover this, payment had already been forwarded
to the criminals through the fast money transfer system. Because
the transactions were fraudulent, the 'financial manager' would be
obliged pay back the full amount to the buyer without any hope of
ever being recompensed themselves.
Several online crime monitoring services, such as
banksafeonline.org.uk, have identified the fraud and say that it is
thought to be operated by organised crime rings from Eastern
Europe, although they say that the web domain name was registered
in January using a postal address in the USA.
What makes this scam so risky is that the fraudulent web name,
antiquitaeten-schwaighofer.com, mimicks that of a genuine antiques
dealer from Salzburg, whose web name is
www.antiquitaeten-schwaighofer.at. He has has no connection
whatsoever with the scam.
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