A “Money Mule” is a person who has been targeted by an organised crime gang in order to launder money for criminals. IMore than 90% of money mule transactions identified through the European Money Mule Actions are linked to cybercrime. The illegal money often comes from criminal activities like phishing, malware attacks, online auction fraud, e-commerce fraud, romance scams and holiday fraud (booking fraud).
Even if Money Mules are not directly involved in the crimes that generate the money they are accomplices to the crime as they launder the proceeds of such crimes and are helping criminal gangs with their operations.
Banks have complex algorithims in place to identify money mule accounts, and money mules can face lengthy prison terms, as well as having their bank accounts closed and their credit score heavily impacted which will have long term consequences for them.
Criminal organisations often target newcomers to the country, unemployed people, students, and young people (under the age of 21), to become Money Mules.
The criminal organisations often recruit Money Mules via:
a) fake, but seemingly legitimate, job offers posted on online job forums, social media platforms and pop-up adds
b) direct messages sent through messaging apps such as WhatsApp or via email
c) directly in person on the street
Criminal organisations often entice people to become money mules by promising to make them easy money with no risks.
Once they have recruited a money mule, the criminal organisations transfer large sums of money into the money mule’s bank account and then either request the money mule to withdraw the cash and hand it over to a member of the criminal organisation, or transfer the money into another bank account. This transfer of funds between accounts and individuals makes it harder for the money to be traced.
To keep yourself safe from money laundering:
- keep your bank cards in a secure location and never disclose your PIN number or bank logon details
- do not give your bank account details or other personal details to anyone unless you know them and trust them
- ignore any job adverts and job offers involving money transfers through your bank account
- report any suspicious adverts or offers to the platform provider and/or the police
If you suspect that you are caught up in a money mule or money laundering scheme, stop transferring money immediately, notify your bank or payment provider and report it to the police.