Jan 30, 2019

What’s a Money Mule?

money mules

Sometimes it feels as if there’s no shortage of techniques some use to commit crimes. Money laundering via money mules is just another way criminals are moving dirty money. Here’s what you should know.

A money mule is someone who knowingly or unknowingly transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of or at the direction of another, making it difficult to follow a money trail.  Criminals recruit mules to move the money through various channels such as electronically through bank accounts, or in person, then asked to withdraw the funds via cashier’s checks or other methods or possibly convert the money into a virtual currency like Bitcoin.

What’s the process?

The criminals usually acquire the money illegally through online scams, like romance and job schemes, or other illegal activities like human and drug trafficking. They then need to bury the money trail and that’s where the money mule comes in. While a money mule can be a willing participant, others can unknowingly be participating in illegal activity. Here a few indicators you may be a money mule without even knowing:

  • Your “employer” uses web-based services such as (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or Outlook) instead of a work email.
  • You’re asked to open a bank account in your own name or in the name of a company you form to receive and transfer money.
  • As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then "process funds" or "transfer funds" via a variety of means to include: wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (Western Union or MoneyGram).
  • You’re allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
  • Your duties have no specific job description.
  • Your online friend or employer, whom you have never met in person, asks you to receive money and, subsequently, forward these funds to an individual you do not know.

What should I look out for?

Recruiters often target the vulnerable, whether that be emotionally or financially which is why they often disguise themselves as job opportunities or new friendships.  

  • Do not accept job offers that ask to use your own bank account to transfer their money.
  • If an employer asks you to form a company to open up a new bank account, RUN!
  • Follow the stranger danger rule. Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know, especially if you met them online.
  • Are the job advertisements poorly written with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes? Red flag!
  • Be suspicious when the boyfriend/girlfriend you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
  • Always double-check. Perform online searches using information from the solicitation emails and contacts.
  • Like the job? Get verification first. Ask the employer, “Can you send a copy of the license/permit to conduct business in my county & state?”

There are some serious consequences regardless if you were knowingly complicit or unaware. A money mule could face prosecution and incarceration and can even put themselves in further trouble if their own personal information is stolen and used for other criminal activities. Don’t fall victim to the scams and always stay alert. If you see something, say something. To report fraudulent activity, contact your nearest FBI field office.

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