WANTED: UK bank account holders. Earn £500 - No experience required.
Interested? How about…
Part-time payments officer required for European expansion of a reputable company. Work from home. Earn up to £1000 a week, 1 or 2 hours work.
It’s very likely that you’ve seen similar adverts to the examples above, on social media or online. Perhaps you’ve even been approached in person. They sound like amazing opportunities, don’t they? Convenient employment, flexible to your lifestyle, providing some welcome quick cash, perhaps towards Christmas, bills or just a bit extra in the pocket for the weekend - sign us up.
But have a think. Is this too good to be true?
What exactly is a Money Mule?
The simplest definition of a Money Mule is someone who willingly withdraws illegitimately obtained money or transfers it between accounts, whilst taking a small percentage for their own fee.
Or, perhaps more simply – it’s someone who agrees to help with money laundering.
It’s known as Money Muling because a bit like how a donkey would carry goods from one place to another, a Money Mule moves funds around.
Money Muling carries very serious consequences, including up to fourteen years imprisonment - which may come as a shock to an unwitting individual. It can also result in having your bank account closed. This could then lead to potential difficulties in the future, with things like opening bank accounts, getting a job, obtaining a mobile phone contract, securing a student loan or applying for any form of credit.
Criminals enlist mules to assist in the distribution of funds obtained through illegal activities, such as financial crime, drug crime and violent crime. These individuals behind the Mule may also use these funds for serious organised crime, such as human trafficking or terrorism.
If you became a Money Mule, you could enable such crimes.
Criminals will try and recruit all kinds of people to become a Mule, to distance themselves from the risk of being caught. However, young people and students are often considered vulnerable to fraudsters and are therefore primary targets to be recruited.
CIFAS, a UK fraud prevention service, has reported a 6.5% increase in the number of Money Mule cases between 2018 and 2019, with the number jumping from 40,118 to 42,727. It’s anticipated that attempts to recruit people as Money Mules will grow as criminals seek to take advantage of people’s financial difficulties in the current economic climate.
It’s worth everyone reading up on how you can protect yourself, so you don’t fall victim to the unscrupulous fraudsters who wish to use your bank account for criminal activity.
It’s important to understand that an approach could occur by any means, from direct contact over social media to speculative / vague job profiles, or perhaps a total stranger approaching you in the street. Sometimes, fraudsters will portray themselves as reputable organisations, in order to convince you that what they are doing or proposing is entirely legitimate and legal - it’s probably not.
Ultimately, if you’re required to receive money into your bank account, then withdraw or transfer a percentage of the received funds (possibly overseas), you’re almost certainly being used as a Money Mule. If you have any suspicions at all, don’t move the money and contact your local police service as soon as possible.
How can I protect myself?
Don’t respond to adverts offering large sums of money, for minimal input. This includes offers to ‘flip’ your money (receiving money into your account and being allowed to keep a percentage before moving it on) as this is often a ploy to disguise money laundering.
Those of you who are regular readers of our blogs will be familiar with ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ – sound advice that has been around for generations, but it’s more relevant than ever here.
Don’t fall into a trap with the promise of quick money for little effort. It doesn’t happen – and if it does, it’s highly likely that it isn’t above board.
If someone has contacted you directly about a role or an offer to make quick money, do not sign up for anything you are not sure about. Take time to do some research on who has contacted you. Make sure you really understand what they’re asking you to sign up for.
Don’t allow anyone to access your bank account
Nothing good can come of giving your bank details or security credentials to a stranger. It could be a breach of your terms and conditions, which may result in your account being closed permanently.
And you should also remember that the account is in your name - granting a third party access to your account could bring serious consequences if it is used for criminal purposes.
If you’ve had a job offer, make sure you do background research on the company.
If you’re under the impression that the offer is from a well-known company, have you had any communication via direct channels? Perhaps a contract of employment or other reliable means of verification (headed paper, company email)? Alarm bells should ring if you’re corresponding with a generic email address from a popular service provider. Equally, you should be aware of potential spelling errors, and suspicious of employment offers from anonymous individuals overseas.
You should not be expected to receive and distribute funds via your personal bank account for any role, any request for you to do so should heighten your suspicions. It’s a big red flag.
Stay safe & protect those you care about
It’s important for everybody to understand just how serious Money Muling is, in order to spot the signs and prevent anyone falling victim to criminals, potentially resulting in life-changing consequences. It’s important to stay vigilant.
Remember, if you’re unsure whether something is legitimate or not, don’t rush your decision - take some time to consider the consequences of your actions. By acting as a Money Mule, you may not realise you’re laundering the proceeds of crime.
If you’ve got kids, financial education is a great way to help them make informed decisions when it comes to their finances. Talking to them about Money Muling raises awareness and encourages them from making the wrong choices.
What to do if you think you’ve been a Money Mule
If you think you have been approached to be a Money Mule or have been caught up in a money laundering scheme, the best advice is to stop transferring money immediately and notify your bank. You also need to report this to the police service (call 101).
If you’re keen to learn more about Money Mules and protect yourself, or those around you - be sure to check out the Don't Be Fooled campaign, launched by CIFAS and UK Finance or head over to the Europol website.