Safety and Protection

Scam to Watch Out For: Money Mule (Video)

Erin Palmer

October 21, 2020

Man sitting at park bench gets a money scam text on his phone

Money mule schemes are on the rise and we want to help you stay safe. If a stranger asks you to receive funds for no reason and then move them on, they are trying to make you a money mule.

There are many variations of the scam, but they tend to follow this basic pattern:

  1. Stranger reaches out to you
  2. Stranger gives a fake story to get you to agree to receive funds and move them
  3. Once you do this, you have been part of a money laundering operation

Money mule schemes involve innocent people as part of their criminal activity. Criminals typically offer fake checks, which will cause trouble since you are depositing fraudulent funds.

Examples of Money Mule Scams

Let’s go over a few specific examples of how a money mule scam might play out. Keep in mind, each of these examples can have many variations. But the common factor is receiving money and being told where to deposit it next.

One example is a fake job opportunity. Once you are “hired,” the company will claim that they need your bank account information for payment purposes. Or they may say you need a “business account” to receive funds and transfer them out. Just because a business has a website, does not mean it is legitimate. This is also common on social media, where a stranger reaches out and says they can help you make easy money, really fast.

Another example is a fake sweepstakes scam. Once you have been told you “won,” they will deposit a large amount into your account and instruct you deposit part of it to a specific account to cover fees or taxes. Remember, legitimate contests do not operate this way.

Sometimes money mule scams use romance or friendship. Someone will begin an online relationship or friendship with you under false pretenses. Once you care for and trust this person, they reach out with a fake emergency, like a family member who needs help. They send you the money to “help” and ask you to deposit the money to the family member’s account for them. Then they disappear, because it was all lies.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are ever in one of the above scenarios:

  • Don’t take a job that requires money transfers, like sending money to a “client”
  • Don’t accept money from a stranger on social media who claims you can make some easy cash
  • Don’t accept and send money to receive a prize
  • Don’t accept and send money to help an online friend or love interest you don’t really know

Never Accept Money from Strangers

Now that you know what a money mule scam looks like, you’re ready to protect yourself and your loved ones from unknowingly participating in criminal activity.

The biggest takeaway is this: never accept money from strangers. Don’t give out your bank account information. Don’t accept money from a stranger using digital methods like Cash app, Zelle, Paypal, or similar. Never take and move money for people you don’t know and trust.

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