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Money Mules: Young People Tricked Into Money Laundering

When you’re short on cash, it’s easy to be tempted by quick money. Social media posts, emails, and job adverts promise stellar results with minimal effort, and that’s hard to ignore when times are tight. But the duties often include working as a money mule by laundering stolen funds. And fraud of this nature is a crime.

A BBC report covered the basics of the scam. Ad respondents are asked to transfer designated funds overseas. And the process requires the use of the targets bank account. Compensation for performing the transfer involves keeping a cut of the deposited money.

While the crime doesn’t sound particularly severe, the punishment is. Convictions include prison sentences of up to 14 years. The credit record of those convicted is also negatively impacted.

To make matters worse, most “money mules” never receive the promised cut of the funds.

Who Criminals Target

Students and the unemployed are common targets for these scams. People struggling financially are more likely to respond to ads that seem too good to be true. Common targets are adults aged 21 to 30. But older individuals may also receive the unsolicited emails or be tempted by the job adverts.

But emails and adverts aren’t the only tactics.  In fact, criminals find targets on online dating sites too (as reported by the Telegraph in 2014).

Perpetrators of the scam make the process sound simple and tempt interested parties with the promise of quick cash payments. With the holiday season in full swing, you may see more of these scams posted than during other times of the year.

Ignorance is No Defense

Claiming ignorance regarding the nature of the money or transaction will not release you from responsibility. Letting someone use your bank account for fraud, regardless of your knowledge about the origins of the money, can result in prison time. And tracking down the criminal once the transaction completes is no easy feat.

In fact, your bank account is the easiest part to trace. After identifying your account based on fraudulent activity, a police investigation often ensues.

However, you can do something if you are targeted. Contact the authorities to help uncover who is truly behind the money. By acting swiftly, absolution of any responsibility is possible.

The Best Defense

Financial Fraud Action UK recommends caution if you receive unsolicited offers that claim you can earn easy money. Also, be cautious when job adverts feature poor English, spelling errors, or notable grammatical issues. If an email looks suspicious, do not respond and do not click any included links. Simply delete the email and move on.

Additionally, confirm company details for any job offers you receive. Job offers from overseas individuals and companies are harder to verify, so proceed with caution.

Never give out the details about your bank account unless you know and trust the individual obtaining the information.

Remember that just because an advert is on a legitimate website that doesn’t mean the person or company behind the post is also legitimate. Take your time and do some research. When in doubt, don’t provide any personal information. The risks associated with money laundering aren’t worth it.

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