Scammers recruit victims to work as money mules. Many people have become aware of internet fraud and are wary about sending money to Nigeria, or other places in West Africa. Sending money to someone in your own country may not raise the same red flags. Scammers also need ways to receive the proceeds of their scams without a direct link to themselves. One way they accomplish both goals is by recruiting unsuspecting victims to play a middle man. Someone who is willing to receive, and then forward, money or merchandise is of high value to scammers. This valuable role is known as a mule. Scammers have been recruiting money mules for some time now, here is some more information on the practice.
Tactics to recruit Money Mules
‘Work at Home’ Job Scam
You are offered a job as a ‘Representative’, ‘shipping manager’, or ‘financial manager’, working from home processing payments through your bank account or via Western Union or Money Gram. Part of your job may also be to receive and forward merchandise. The scammer may also provide your services to other scammers for a fee.
Your ‘Internet Friend’ may be setting you up.
Scammers begin a friendship or more often, romantic relationship with you over the internet. Social media and dating sites are often the medium where you are approached. When a relationship and trust has been established the scammer asks for favors or help with financial matters. You are asked to receive or send money or asked to receive or forward merchandise. Your name and details may be passed around for use to other scammers without your knowledge.
Victims turned into Money Mules.
You are a victim of advance fee fraud. The scammer has told you that an overdue inheritance or lottery win is due to you, but there are necessary ‘fees’ to be paid. When you cannot pay the fees, the scammer offers to help you with the fees. These ‘fee’ payments are supposedly coming from legitimate clients of the scammer, but in fact are coming from other scam victims. You are told to receive the payments as partial payment of your ‘fees’ and send them on further. Thus, turning you from a scam victim into a money mule.
Avoiding involvement in a money mule scam
Being victimized by a scam is bad enough, but being turned into a money mule and becoming a criminal yourself is much worse. When the other victims who sent payment to you discover they have been scammed, it will be you they report to the Police. You will never know the true identity or location of the scammer, and will become the sole focus of any legal action. Allowing others to use you to move money, whether it’s by using your bank account or picking up or sending money by Western Union type transfer services, is a sure way to end up in legal hot water.
Be wary and wise – Never receive payments for anyone you have met over the internet, remember scammers are always recruiting money mules.