Our 24x7 comprehensive monitoring of the Digital Underground can help you transform your information security and anti-fraud operations from reactive to proactive.

orange arrow

“Walkers”: Trafficking the Elderly, Disabled and Homeless for Check Fraud

intro image

Written by Maria Noriega - Dec 28, 2022

Check Deposit Fraud Using “Walkers”

  • Many financial institutions have been facing a massive spike in check fraud attacks, leveraging a combination of old and new fraud tactics.
  • Recently, we have observed a marked increase in check deposit fraud using “walkers”, i.e., witting mules recruited by fraudsters to deposit compromised / stolen checks in person. Fraudsters are specifically recruiting and trafficking in the elderly, disabled, and homeless for this fraudulent scheme.
  • Increasingly, recruiters and operators of walkers are advertising walkers on underground Telegram channels. These criminals market their walkers to other fraudsters by gender, age, and ethnicity.
  • Fraudsters typically pay a flat fee of $200-300 to retain the services of a walker. In most cases, the fraudster does not interface directly with the walker. Rather, the fraudster interacts directly with the walker operator, who oversees the deposit attempts, aka “walks”.
Graph
Example of an advertisment
Example advertisements of walkers for hire posted in underground channels

Marketing Walkers

A stolen or forged check is valueless unless it is successfully deposited. To eliminate their personal risk, some fraudsters rely on “walkers,” or individuals recruited to successfully deposit these checks into beneficiary accounts in person. Fraudsters often turn to other criminals who offer 'walkers' as a service and advertise walkers by their physical descriptions or by showing an image/video of them. The same is true for those criminals who soliciting walkers by advertising their requested demographics.

Operators of walkers aim to make their walkers look ‘legitimate’ to avoid any hassle at the branch. They obtain fake IDs matching the owners of beneficiary account(s). They often make an effort to dress their walkers and even groom them at hair salons.

Examples of fraudsters boasting about the appearance of their walkers.
Examples of fraudsters boasting about the appearance of their walkers.

Hiring Walkers

Walkers are hired only to make the deposit in person at a branch. The fraudster who hires the services of a walker typically pays a flat fee of $200-300 and must already possess a beneficiary (mule) account and stolen or forged check(s) ready for deposit. Some walker services are quite organized, require advanced reservations and keeping tight schedules of their “walks”.


Recommendations

  • Advise tellers to be aware of elderly or disabled individuals attempting to deposit checks, particularly without a debit card and often with an out-of-state ID.
  • Tellers should validate the beneficiary account information with the person making the deposit. Sometimes details like gender and age may be overlooked.
  • Advise tellers to be mindful of folks who:
    • Come in pairs; more specifically, where only one person makes the check deposit while the other keeps watch from a distance.
    • Use ear buds (often for communication with an operator).
  • Consider leveraging Dark Web Intelligence to proactively flag stolen, synthetic, and forged checks well ahead of deposit.

Don't forget

to Visit

Our Solutions


About the Author

Maria Noriega is an E-Crimes Intelligence Analyst at Q6 Cyber focusing on financial cybercrime trends in the Underground. Maria's background includes an MPhil from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo, Norway and a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Florida International University, as well as certificates in forensic accounting and cryptocurrency. Maria is an experienced researcher and is internationally recognized and published for her work within the tech-centric criminal justice field.