A Money Mule allows his or her bank account to be used to launder illegal funds to criminals. The money mule receives a fee for his or her services, but may not always be aware of the illegal nature of the activity. Such an intermediate account makes it more difficult to trace the criminal’s identity.
How criminals work
Criminals recruit money mules via the internet, email, chat, letter or telephone. They lure the prospective mule with a fabricated story and then ask for permission to pay money into his or her bank account. They give account numbers (usually in a foreign country) to which the mule must transfer the money. The mule is allowed to keep a percentage of the money as a fee.
Good money mules are scarce. Most of them can use their account only once to funnel away illegally obtained funds before it is closed by the bank. So criminals need to keep recruiting new money mules on a regular basis.
What the bank does
Banks report money mules to the police and judicial authorities so that they can be prosecuted. In addition, money mules are put on a black list which makes it extremely difficult for them to get a mortgage, loan or other service from a bank.
What you can do
If a story sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t respond in any way and never give your account number to people you do not know.
Here are some tips for recognising efforts to recruit money mules:
- You receive an email offering you a good job in an international company; you are promised an excellent reward for only a few hours work a month.
- You receive an email from a seemingly reliable job site, charitable institution, good friend or internet boyfriend/girlfriend asking you to forward an amount that is to be paid into your account shortly.
- Two days after selling an expensive camera on an auction site, you receive an email from the buyer. He has transferred the amount twice by mistake and asks you to pay the excess amount into a different account from the original account.
- Poorly worded emails or letters.
- The email or letter is not directed to you personally.