Protect yourself from Money Mule Scammers
Using a money mule is a form of money laundering.
Money laundering is the illegal process of making money obtained through criminal activity (“dirty money”) to appear to have come from a legitimate – or “clean” – source. This is done by passing the money through a complicated sequence of bank transfers or commercial transactions.
Money mules are recruited by criminals to transfer illegally obtained money between different bank accounts.
Criminals will often use fake job adverts or create social media posts to lure victims with ‘get rich quick’ schemes, promising that money can be gained through little or no effort.
The scam relies on the victim agreeing to share their bank details so that cash can be deposited into their account. They are then asked to withdraw and transfer the money to a different account, often overseas. The victim gets to keep some of the money for themselves.
The most vulnerable to this type of scam are the young, unemployed, new residents to the country or anyone in financial hardship. The fraudsters will often target the young as they have no criminal record, so they think this improves their chances of avoiding detection. The criminals also rely on the fact that young people are likely to be less suspicious, less likely to ask difficult questions and less aware of the consequences of getting involved in fraud.
Earlier this year, CIFAS, a fraud prevention service in the UK, reported that the number of cases of 14 to 18-year-olds who have allowed their bank accounts to be used to divert funds has grown by 73% in just two years.
If money mules are caught, it has serious, long term effects on their credit rating and future employment prospects. Even if the money mules are unaware that the money they transferred was illegally obtained, they played a key role in the fraud and can still be prosecuted – and face up to 14 years in prison.
How can you protect yourself and your family?
• Speak to members of your family – especially the younger ones – about money mules so that they understand the scam and how they can protect themselves. Make sure you all know to keep your bank details safe and to be cautious of unsolicited offers of making money with little or no effort
• Know that ignorance is no legal defence. Even if the mule was unaware that the money they transferred was illegally obtained, they will still be prosecuted
• Watch for young people in your family suddenly having extra cash, or becoming secretive, withdrawn or stressed
• Use your common sense – if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
• Respond to job adverts, or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work
• Don’t accept a job offer if the prospective employer asks you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate employer would never ask you to do this
• Give your personal or financial details to a potential employer – especially one based overseas – before you have done the research to reassure yourself that they are legitimate
• Give your personal or financial details to anyone you don’t know and trust.
If you think you’ve fallen victim to this, or any, scam, please report it immediately to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or you can do this online here.