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Minor Crimes are Going Digital

In a recent white paper by the We Fight Fraud organization, it was found that criminals are “moving towards transacting the proceeds of their crimes via bank transfers and trading illegal goods on social media.”

There are two substantive changes. The first is that individuals looking to find illicit products and services are are using social media to contact the criminal elements.

The second is that criminal now regularly accept bank transfers for payment.

For example, an individual shoplifts a shirt at Target, then posts it on Facebook buy and sell, and finally accepts a bank transfer for payment. A transaction that before might be done out the back of a truck and in cash, is now all digital.

The study highlights how ‘everyday’ low level criminal commerce is now entering the legitimate financial services sector through multiple small denomination bank transfers. The mixture of social media activity and increased use of bank transfers to facilitate criminal behaviour has meant that COVID-19 has played a significant role in pushing criminal commerce into the digital banking age.

This poses new challenges for the policing of low-level crime, as the use of social media, third-party communication apps, and digital payments rather than cash-based in person transactions can obscure criminal activity.

What makes the whole thing possible, in the short term anyway, is that the smaller institutions do not have the capacity to do the forensic search required to identify potentially criminal transactions. This is mostly a cost issue as software to monitor every single transaction and the human resources required to follow up are not a priority. Policing is difficult as well as now transactions are not done in cash,w hich would at least require a public meeting of some sort.

Further add in encrypted messaging and tracking communications is difficult. Police likely do not have the time and broad enough skill set to crack encryption. The FBI and CIA may be able to, but for local law enforcement it would be impossible.

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