Money mule awareness
Increasingly, fraud networks are recruiting unsuspecting victims to receive and transfer money from other victims. Being used as a money mule victimizes you, victimizes others and can get you tied into a money laundering scheme and could result in facing criminal charges.
What is a money mule?
A money mule is a person who's recruited by fraudsters to serve as a middle person to transfer stolen money. This is process is known as money laundering, which is a crime. The money mule may, or may, not know that they're a pawn in a larger network. When a mule moves money, it becomes harder to identify the fraudsters from the victims.
They often transfer the money using:
- bank wire transfers
- email money transfers
- money service businesses
- virtual currencies
Typically, mules receive a small percentage of the money transferred. Fraudsters may disguise these funds as:
- "a payment from clients"
- "a loan for a crypto investment"
- "prize winnings"
- and much more
Examples of money mule traps
The following scams are examples of how fraudsters can trick victims into becoming a money mule:
- Job scam example
- Victims are approached by suspects, most commonly after posting their resume on a website
- The suspect may offer a position such as "payment processor", "financial officer" and "administrative assistant" among others
- Suspects will advise that your job duties include accepting payments from clients into your personal account, and then transferring it to an account in a different country
- In most cases, victims will then be asked to keep a small percentage of the payment and send the remaining amount via virtual currencies
- Prize scam example
- Victims are told that they are the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes
- They are then sent "advance payments" on their winnings, then asked to forward it to a "financial office" to cover fees or taxes
- Romance scam example
- A victim meets someone online and begins a relationship with them
- The suspect will gain the trust and affection of the victims over a lengthy period of time (months)
- The suspect will convince the victims they are an investor, engineer, in the military or someone prestigious
- Often, the suspect will provide victims with a cell phone to communicate with them
- The suspect will request that the victims open a bank account and to send the suspect a bank card
In these examples, the payments received are often from other victims and by transferring these funds to criminals you become a money mule.
How to protect yourself
- If you receive funds for any reason from an unknown person or company, and they ask you to forward it elsewhere, don't
- Watch out for messages about winning a prize or lottery that you never entered
- You should question any request to conduct unusual or questionable financial transactions on behalf of a third party
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