Fraudsters Prey on Emotions and Bank Accounts in Money Mule Schemes
A money mule is a person who transfers illegally obtained money between different payment accounts—often in different countries—on behalf of others. Acting as a money mule by allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others, jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information. Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible.
Signs You May Be Acting as a Money Mule
- You receive an unsolicited e-mail or contact over social media promising easy money for little to no effort.
- The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based e-mail (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or Outlook).
- You are 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 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 conduct financial transactions that they should reasonably be able to do for themselves, and offers to share the proceeds of that transaction with you.
- Your online companion is adamant that you keep the relationship and the associated financial transactions secret.
How to Protect Yourself
- Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
- Be wary when an employer asks you to form a company to open 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 e-mails and contacts.
- Ask the employer, “Can you send a copy of the license/permit to conduct business in my county or state?”
- Use the privacy settings on your social media and be selective about the information you make public.
- If you are unsure whether or not you are being used as a money mule and you are uncomfortable talking to law enforcement, consult with your local bank branch.
How to Respond
- If you have received solicitations of this type, do not respond to them and do not click on any links they contain. Inform your local police or the FBI.
- If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme, stop transferring money immediately and notify your bank, the service you used to conduct the transaction, and law enforcement.