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If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Know what to watch for and avoid becoming a money mule with these tips from the ABA Foundation.
When criminals obtain money illegally, they need to hide or launder the source of the funds. One method they use is to look for people to transfer that money for them. Those people become money mules, and are used to move and launder the money.
If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Often, scammers will approach you online, but they may also call you directly. Regardless of the particular method, the goal is the same—to use consumers to move money so that law enforcement cannot easily track it.
If someone asks to use your bank account or asks you to open a bank account in your name to send and receive money on their behalf or business, don’t do it! Even if they offer to pay you some cash for your trouble, it’s not worth it. You may not only be risking your financial assets and identity, but your actions could be criminal.
Anyone can be a potential target. But, scammers often prey on elders, students, millennials, those looking for employment and those on dating websites.
Unwitting money mules are those who are unaware of the scam.
Witting money mules are aware that their efforts are part of an organized crime scheme. These individuals may even have been warned by financial institutions, law enforcement or other agencies that what they are doing is wrong, but continue to serve as money mules in the hopes of receiving a share of the monetary gains or some other benefit.
Yes, acting as a money mule is illegal whether or not someone is aware of the fraud. Money mules could be prosecuted, fined and incarcerated.
Beyond the legal ramifications of acting as a money mule, the people who serve as money mules may open themselves up to identity theft. All of their personally identifiable information can be stolen by criminals, which can lead to theft of their financial assets.