The amount of money fraudsters tried to get through New Zealand's biggest bank grew by more than 50 per cent to $7.3 million in the year to October.

Figures from the ANZ show attempted fraud payments rose 56 per cent, up from $4.6m in the prior period.

The bank highlighted the figures as part of its awareness campaign for Fraud Awareness Week which runs until Sunday.

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ANZ said it had also identified 842 money mule cases - an increase of 69 per cent on the previous year.

Money mules are people who transfer money between bank accounts for someone else - money that is typically illegal and part of a crime.

Some situations can involve people transferring money unwittingly through a romance scam but others are recruited and paid in return for doing it.

Bridget Doell, a detective senior sergeant at the Police financial crime unit, said money mules were on the rise in New Zealand.

She said while it was illegal to act as a money mule in New Zealand both complicit and non-complicit cases were becoming more common.

"While some of these mules are scam victims themselves, we know many mules are
recruited to be part of the fraud in return for payment," Doell said.

"We've seen international students or backpackers returning to their home country and
before they leave they sell their banking information to a mule recruiter, unaware they're
committing a crime."

She said unwitting mules were often victims of romance scams where they may have an online "partner" who tells them they're going to transfer some money to them because their own accounts are being audited.


"They might then ask the victim to send that money to another account, usually controlled
by the fraudster. The victim – or mule - doesn't know that money has been sent from
another victim, who the same fraudster has tricked into sending to the mule."

Paula Milne, ANZ's head of financial crime, said the financial services industry continued to see an increase in scams.

"As fraud detection improves fraudsters are finding alternative ways to move and disguise the origins of illegal money."

Milne said in August and September alone the monthly average doubled from the previous 12 months at the ANZ.

The $7.3 million includes money ANZ has prevented from being transferred and money that has been recovered.

Milne said it continued to invest in fraud and scam detection.


Bronwyn Groot, fraud education manager at the Commission for Financial Capability, said if a person thinks they may have been used as a mule they should stop all communication with the suspected criminals, keep receipts and contact information and notify the police.

"People of all ages and from all walks of life can become mules.

"Students, new migrants, business owners, retirees, you name it. Scammers target them through online job websites, dating and social networking websites and online classifieds.

"Before you visit those kinds of sites, be armed with the knowledge of what to look out for so you don't end up with a criminal record."

How to protect yourself from becoming a money mule
• Be suspicious when a love interest you meet online wants to use your bank account to receive and forward money.
• Be wary when an employer or investment advisor asks you to form a company in order to open a new bank account, or use your own account to transfer money.
• Never give your financial details to someone you don't know and trust, especially if you've met them online.
source: NZ Police and Commission for Financial Capability.