Don't Be a Money Mule: FBI Joins Campaign to Stop Money Mules
A female who worked in early childhood education met a man on an online dating site. He was kind to her and told her he worked for a children’s charity. A few weeks after they began communication, the man asked her to receive some money into her account for his charity. Over the next several weeks, he attempted to wire a total of $250,000 into her account. He then instructed her to wire the money into other bank accounts or obtain cashier’s checks and mail them to individuals at his direction.
On another dating website, a man met another man who claimed he was a captain in the U.S. Army, stationed overseas. The “Army captain” told the man he was trying to arrange his travel home to the United States and needed the man’s assistance in receiving some money and sending it elsewhere. The man had $10,000 wired into his account and was instructed to withdraw the money in small chunks and send it to a woman in Texas.
A retired advertising executive who was looking to earn some extra money found a “work at home” opportunity online. He was hired and then directed to create a business and open a new bank account for that business. He was then told he’d receive a series of deposits and would be instructed where to send the money. He believed the business was facilitating importing and exporting.
These individuals were all likely unaware that what they were doing was illegal or damaging. The money they pledged to move, however, may have been funneled through phishing scams or business email compromise schemes, leaving untold victims in their wake. “It’s crucial to understand,” Abbott said, “that what may look to be the harmless movement of money from place to place is anything but harmless.”
Signs You May Be Acting as a Money Mule
- You received an unsolicited email or contact over social media promising easy money for little to no effort.
- The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based email (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or Outlook).
- You are asked to open up 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 wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
- You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
- Your duties have no specific job description.
- Your online companion, whom you have never met in person, asks you to receive money and, subsequently, forward the funds to an individual you do not know.
How to Protect Yourself
- A legitimate company will not ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. Do not accept any job offers that ask you to do this.
- Be wary when an employer asks you to form a company in order to open up a new bank account.
- Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.
- Be wary when job advertisements are poorly written with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
- Be suspicious when the individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
- Perform online searches to check the information from any solicitation emails and contacts.
- Ask the employer, “Can you send a copy of the license/permit to conduct business in my county or state?”