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A guide to money mules

Teresa Kidd

Written by

Teresa Kidd

6 min read

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Sometimes criminals will approach other people to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to another account, keeping a cut for themselves. This is money laundering, which is a crime.

What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone who receives and moves money or merchandise that came from – and will be used for – illegal activities, such as fraud, human trafficking, terrorism, or drug trafficking, on behalf of someone else.

This is done to hide the origins and the end recipients of the stolen funds or goods.

Individuals who let their accounts be used in this way (the ‘mules’) can face serious consequences, including criminal charges and may be unable to open a bank account or access credit in future.

Why would someone become a money mule?

Criminals often target vulnerable people who are likely to be in need of money. This crime is increasing year on year at a rate of 78% for those under 21 . It’s also rising among the over 30s as cost of living pressures grow.

It’s very common for people to become money mules unwittingly. They aren’t aware of what’s really happening and are often lied to by the criminals.

Behaviours that put you at risk of becoming a money mule

Whilst anyone can be targeted for this type of activity, there are behaviours that can leave you more open to being approached.

  • Responding to job adverts, or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work
  • Failing to research a potential employer, particularly one based overseas, before sharing your personal or financial details with them
  • Allowing an employer, or someone you don’t know and trust, to use your bank account to transfer money
  • Responding to direct messages on social media or emails from an unknown source containing ‘get rich quick’ offers
  • Being approached ‘on the street’ with an offer that’s too good to be true

What to look out for in money mule ‘recruitment’

You can protect yourself by becoming familiar with how scammers often approach mules.

  • Badly written emails regarding job offers containing poor grammar and spelling mistakes
  • An overseas company looking for ‘local agents’ to avoid local taxes and high transaction fees
  • The opportunity for easy money is presented as having no risks e.g. “100% guaranteed”, “same day cash” and “legit money”
  • You are asked to move money through your bank account and offered a cut. You may also be told how much others have earned by doing so.
  • Interaction is solely online, promising high earning potential for little effort

What should you do if you suspect that you or someone you know is being used as a money mule?

Report mule recruiters

If you think you know someone is recruiting mules, you can protect victims by reporting the recruiters. Call the local police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

If you see the offer on social media, report it to the social media platform itself to get it taken down.

Report it if you’re a victim of fraud

If you think you’ve been caught up in a money mule scheme, stop transferring money immediately, notify the bank or payment provider and report it to the police.

Report all incidents of fraud to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, via their website or contact 0300 123 2040.

In an emergency, call 999.

If you think someone is already involved, go to the National Crime Agency (NCA) website for advice

If you want to help someone you think is already involved in this type of crime, go to the NCA website.

Boost your online security

Make it harder for criminals to steal your identity and open bank accounts in your name by following these simple recommendations from the National Cyber Security Centre.

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