What is a money mule and how do they get caught?
04 Dec 2017

Law enforcement agencies in 26 countries last week joined forces to take action against money muling.

About 766 money mulers and 59 recruiters or organisers were identified.

“Among those money mule transactions, more than 90% were linked to cyber-related crimes, such as phishing, online auction fraud, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and CEO fraud,” said Europol.

In the United Kingdom, anti-fraud agencies reported a stark rise in the number of young people being used as money mules.

Anti-fraud agencies Cifas and Financial Fraud Action UK said:

“Statistics reveal a 75 per cent increase in the misuse of bank accounts involving 18 to 24 year olds during the first nine months of 2017, compared to the same period last year … The most common example of this is when an individual acts as a ‘money mule’.”

You might be wondering:

What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone recruited by a criminal organisation as a money laundering intermediary to receive and transfer illegally obtained funds between bank accounts or countries.

This money muling helps fund other forms of organised crime, such as drug dealing, human trafficking, terrorism and online fraud.

Who becomes a money mule?

Newcomers to a country, the unemployed, students and people in economic hardship often feature amongst the most susceptible to this crime. Even if money mules act unwittingly, they are committing a crime by laundering the illicit proceeds of crime.

Criminals often dupe innocent victims into laundering money on their behalf with the promise of easy money by using seemingly legitimate job adverts, online posts, social media and other methods.

How do they get caught?

Generally, banks have sophisticated systems in place to track fraudulent transactions and can identify these within short notice.

In addition, law enforcement is also upping its game. A top official with the Australian Federal Police said they continue to target money mules and the syndicates they may work for. Their officers have ‘sophisticated’ means of detecting currency, for example, including using x-ray, detector dogs and physical inspections.

What happens if one’s arrested?

Depending on the country’s legal framework, money mules can face a prison sentence of many years, a fine or community service, and the prospect of never again being able to secure a mortgage or open a bank account.

What do the police say?

1.If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2.Be cautious of unsolicited emails or approaches over social media promising opportunities to make easy money.
3.Never give your bank account or any other personal details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
4.If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme, stop transferring money immediately and notify your bank, the service you used to conduct the transaction, and law enforcement.

Source: Cifas, Europol and other agencies.

Related topics:

My story: I was a scared, pregnant money mule. I’ll never do it again.

UK: Huge rise in number of youth used as money mules

Chinese money launderers paid £1.8m into London banks

Europe: 178 arrests in successful hit against money muling

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