FBI Warns of Money Mules
HOUSTON, TX—The FBI is launching the ‘Don’t Be a Mule’ campaign to create awareness about the crime that involves witting and unwitting victims acting as money mules to move illegally-obtained money between different payment accounts—often in different countries—on behalf of others.
This year, the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) believes the general public is more susceptible to falling for money mule schemes due to the surge in unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As many companies are being forced to lay off workers or shut down completely, more “work from home” job opportunities are being advertised, even on reputable job sites.
Criminals recruit money mules to help launder proceeds derived from online scams and frauds or crimes like human trafficking and drug trafficking. They often target the elderly, students, those looking for work, or those on dating websites. Money mules often receive a commission for their service, or they might help because they believe they have a trusting or romantic relationship with the individual who is asking for help.
Money mules add layers of distance between crime victims and criminals, which makes it harder for law enforcement to accurately trace money trails. Some money mules know they are supporting criminal enterprises; others are unaware that they are helping criminals profit.
Acting as a money mule is illegal and punishable, even if you aren’t aware you’re committing a crime. Serving as a money mule can also damage your credit and financial standing. Additionally, you risk having your own personally identifiable information stolen and used by the criminals you are working for, and you may be held personally liable for repaying money lost by victims.
How to protect yourself:
- Do not accept job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money.
- Be wary when an employer asks you to form a company to open a new bank account.
- Be suspicious when the individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
- Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.
If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme:
- Stop communication with the suspected criminal(s).
- Stop transferring money or any other items of value immediately.
- Maintain any receipts, contact information, and relevant communications (emails, chats, text messages, etc).
- Notify your bank and the service you used to conduct the transaction.
- Notify law enforcement. Report suspicious activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov and contact your local FBI field office.
Learn more about money mules here: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/money-mules