New financial crime guide warns the finance sector and Australians about ‘cuckoo smurfing’

AUSTRAC has released a new financial crime guide to warn businesses and their customers about the dangers of a money laundering method known as ‘cuckoo smurfing’.

Criminals use the ‘cuckoo smurfing’ method to move illegal funds into Australia and to disguise the profits of their criminal activities. It generally relies on exploiting the legitimate bank accounts of individuals and businesses here in Australia.

The Australian account holder will commonly be expecting genuine funds to be deposited into their account from a friend, relative or business partner overseas. Often these recipients are unaware that the funds transferred into their accounts have in fact come from criminals using funds generated from drug dealing and other serious criminal activities.

The ‘cuckoo smurfing’ financial crime guide helps businesses know what to look for and when to report to AUSTRAC. At the same time new educational materials developed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in collaboration with AUSTRAC are also available for the public on how to spot and protect themselves from cuckoo smurfing.

AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose PSM, said if businesses identify behaviour that indicates potential cuckoo smurfing, they must report it to AUSTRAC so together we can disrupt criminal syndicates targeting the bank accounts of Australians.

“This method has been used by criminal syndicates involved in crimes that inflict serious harm on our community such as drug trafficking, slavery, fraud and corruption. We rely on financial businesses to report to AUSTRAC and partner with enforcement to stop these criminal syndicates and protect members of the Australian community.”

Money transfer businesses, banks and financial institutions should monitor for indicators of potential criminal activity including cash deposits appearing inconsistent with expected transaction activity of an account holder, cash deposits conducted on the same day across multiple branches and ATMs and multiple cash deposits predominately in amounts under $10,000.

Members of the Australian public expecting to receive funds from overseas, should review their bank account activity and report any unexpected and suspicious transactions. Any individual or company can be targeted, some of the most at risk customers include Australian expatriates, Australian exporters and international students studying in Australia.

If members of the public notice any suspicious activity occurring in their bank account, including the warning signs above, they should immediately report it to their bank in the first instance, or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


Download and read the Financial crime guide – Detect and report cuckoo smurfing (PDF, 1.49MB)

View the factsheet for members of the public – Cuckoo smurfing: How to spot, avoid and protect yourself from this money laundering scheme (PDF, 580KB)

Media contact


Phone: 02 9950 0488