Security Alerts and Updates

Money Mule Scams

If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Know what to watch for and avoid becoming a money mule with these tips.

Source: ABA Foundation

What’s a Money Mule?

When criminals obtain money illegally, they need to hide or launder the source of the funds. One method they use is to look for people to transfer that money for them. Those people become money mules, and are used to move and launder the money.

If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Often, scammers will approach you online, but they may also call you directly. Regardless of the particular method, the goal is the same—to use consumers to move money so that law enforcement cannot easily track it.

If someone asks to use your bank account or asks you to open a bank account in your name to send and receive money on their behalf or business, don’t do it! Even if they offer to pay you some cash for your trouble, it’s not worth it. You may not only be risking your financial assets and identity, but your actions could be criminal.

Who Do Criminals Target?

Anyone can be a potential target. But, scammers often prey on elders, students, millennials, those looking for employment and those on dating websites.

Witting vs. Unwitting Mules

Unwitting money mules are those who are unaware of the scam.

Witting money mules are aware that their efforts are part of an organized crime scheme. These individuals may even have been warned by financial institutions, law enforcement or other agencies that what they are doing is wrong, but continue to serve as money mules in the hopes of receiving a share of the monetary gains or some other benefit.

Are There Legal Consequences?

Yes, acting as a money mule is illegal whether or not someone is aware of the fraud. Money mules could be prosecuted, fined and incarcerated.

Are There Other Repercussions?

Beyond the legal ramifications of acting as a money mule, the people who serve as money mules may open themselves up to identity theft. All of their personally identifiable information can be stolen by criminals, which can lead to theft of their financial assets.

How Can You Avoid Becoming a Money Mule?

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, texts or other communications that promise you easy money with little or no effort.
  • Don’t share your financial details or give access to your bank account to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • Don’t purchase virtual currency or gift cards on someone else’s behalf.
  • Never use your own bank account or open one in your name to transfer money for anyone else.
  • Never send money to an online romantic interest even if he or she sends you a check first.
  • Watch out for messages where people claim to be abroad and ask you to send or receive money on their behalf or that of their loved one. They may claim to be quarantined, recovering from COVID-19 or in the military. Don’t fall for the scam!
  • When seeking employment, conduct research and confirm the legitimacy of any company that may offer you a position. You can ask them for a copy of their license to conduct business in your state.

What Should You Do If You Spot a Scam?

  • Don’t continue communicating with the scammers. Break off all contact and stop transferring money for them.
  • Tell your bank, the wire transfer company, gift card provider or other payment provider right away.
  • Immediately file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
  • If you or someone you know is an elder who has been victimized, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

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