Money mules knowingly or unknowingly help criminal gangs launder illegal funds or profits. Fraud happens by providing your bank account to receive and transfer fraudulent funds, legitimizing it.
Organized crime relies on money laundering to hide the origin of illegal funds. The main aim is to make money seem legal while protecting criminal groups from prosecution for illegal activities. Since they do these activities discreetly, it makes it hard to trace money trails by law enforcement.
There is a need to raise awareness among people to help curb this threat. So INTERPOL launched the #YourAccountYourCrime program that ran between the 10th and 26th of August 2022. The program helped raise awareness of money mules and gave people tips for staying safe.
How are Money Mules Recruited?
Criminal gangs recruit money mules in various ways. For example, criminals trick some people with the promise of financial gains, such as receiving commission fees for their service. Others prey on peoples’ need for romance and thereby support the person they believe to be in love with.
The #YourAccountYourCrime program focused on four key areas of how criminal gangs recently recruit money mules:
- Job scams
A scammer contacts you about a new job offer, even without applying for the position. The employer doesn’t provide information about the job offered. If you are not keen, they will deceive you.
- Romance scams
Scammers contact people through social media platforms or dating platforms. The person contacting you is in pursuit of a romantic relationship with you.
- Investment scams
Most people fall prey to these investment scams. You receive a message about big returns on investment.
- Impersonation scams
You receive calls from individuals pretending to be from courier services or government agencies requesting your banking details.
What are the Tips to Avoid Becoming a Money Mule Victim?
It’s easy to become a money mule victim; however, you must stay alert and keep these tips in mind.
- Be suspicious of promises to receive funds in exchange for transferring funds through your account. No legitimate company will ask you to do this. Also, please refrain from responding to job adverts that promise hefty rewards for minimum effort, as it’s likely to be a scam.
- Never open a bank account with your details on behalf of someone else. Also, never accept that someone uses your bank account for personal transactions.
- Before applying for any advertised job, do thorough research. Check if contacts are genuine and if they have a company website. By doing your research, you will have a good idea about whether the job opportunity is real.
- If a criminal convinces you to make a money transfer, getting your money back won’t be easy. Getting money back from a scam is difficult, unlike fraud, as scammers take money against your knowledge. Most scams will require you to actively participate, e.g. sharing your bank details or transferring money.
Criminals are experts in impersonating people, police and government agencies. Hence it can be hard to spot a scam text, email or phone call. However, there are certain things that you can do to protect yourself. For example, if someone asks for your personal or banking information, be direct and say NO.