As scammers get better, they can more easily and covertly set you up to be a money mule and make you unwittingly take part in a criminal scheme. Here’s how to distinguish between a real job and a dangerous scam that could end up having legal consequences for you.
What Is A Money Mule Scam?
According to the FBI, a money mule scam is a type of scheme involving the use of a “money mule,” which is someone who launders or transports stolen money, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Often, scammers will deceive and recruit money mules to help them move laundered money around and commit fraud, which can lead to the “money mule” losing money from their own bank account. It doesn’t have to be straight cash either. Scammers can recruit money mules to use stolen credit card information or transport some kind of merchandise. Money mules are often helpful because they add extra layers of distance between the crime and the criminal organizer, making it more difficult for law enforcement to identify who is organizing the scheme. Money mules are not the only victims in this type of scam. Other people or organizations can also lose money or personal financial information.
How To Tell The Difference Between A Scam And A Real Job
These schemes are designed a number of ways, and they most often prey on those who are in more desperate positions and want money. But even if you are desperate, be sure to read the warning signs. With scammers getting more and more talented, you may not always be able to rely on your intuition. Here are some warnings that the job offer is not real.
- You are asked to transfer money from your own account, even if you do not have to transfer all the money you receive. If a recruiter says you will have to send money to a client or supplier, that could be a red flag signaling the job may not be legitimate.
- All transactions and interactions will be online, or the “company” is located in another country. Lack of transparency should tip you off that this is not a legitimate organization.
- You are approached for a job through a dating website. It is unlikely that someone who you met on a dating website would try to recruit you to a legitimate company.
- There are no qualifications or job descriptions listed for the “position.”
- It is described as a prize. A real job will not be described as such.
- It seems too good to be true. Work-from-home opportunities that require little to no real work other than wiring money to different accounts are a sign of an illegitimate job.
How To Protect Yourself
There are steps you can take to ensure your personal and financial information remains private and that you do not fall victim to a money mule scam.
- Do not give out your personal information to a love interest who you have met online, including but not limited to bank account information, your social security number, or credit card number. Even if the other person provides you with their own information or sends you money, do not give them money in return or reveal any private information. Read here for more information on romance scams.
- Research the name of the alleged organization that is trying to recruit you. You can look up the name of the person who contacted you, the name of the organization, even the subject line of the email they sent you. It is possible that it is already a documented scheme that other people have fallen victim to, and there may be a record of their tactics online.
- Carefully read the message that you were sent about the “opportunity.” Awkward phrasing or grammatical mistakes are a sign that it is not from a real company.
What Happens If You Become A Money Mule?
The consequences of falling for one of these scams can be severe. Your bank account information could be frozen for the duration of a criminal investigation, and your credit score could be damaged. If you were an unknowing participant, you may not receive a harsh punishment like the criminal organizer would. However, in some cases, you may still face prosecution for your role in the scheme or have to pay damages to other victims in the scheme.
Taking Future Steps
Educating yourself about fraud is the best way to avoid it yourself. For more information about different types of fraud and how to avoid the pitfalls, look on our Anti Fraud news feed to stay updated. You can use it as a tool if you suspect you or someone you know is being subject to fraud. If you do believe fraud has occurred, immediately cut off contact with the scammers, and contact your bank and local authorities.