What if I was involved in an illegal deal without knowing it?

What is money muling

A money mule is a person who transfers illegally obtained money between different bank accounts, often in different countries, on behalf of others. Money mules are also recruited by criminals to receive money to their bank account, withdraw it and transfer it abroad, in exchange for a fee for the service. Although money mules are not actually involved in the crimes that unlawfully generate money (cybercrime, online payment and fraud, drugs, human trafficking, etc.), their actions are illegal because they launder the proceeds of crime, thus helping the criminals to recycle dirty money worldwide in complete anonymity. If you are found to be involved in money muling, even unintentionally, you can be punished with imprisonment, a fine or community service, and you may never get to have a mortgage or a bank account.

How are money mules recruited?

As new technologies and trends emerge, organised crime groups develop new ways to defraud people:

  • seemingly legal job ads (e.g. for “money transfer agents”)
  • seemingly legitimate messages online
  • direct contact in person or by e-mail
  • social media (e.g. posts on closed Facebook groups)
  • messages sent by instant messaging apps (e.g. Whatsapp, Viber)

Which people are most targeted by money muling?

  • People just arriving in a new country (often targeted soon after their arrival), the unemployed, students and people with financial problems may be more vulnerable to criminal activity.
  • Men are more likely than women to become mules, especially if they are aged between 18 and 34, whereas people over the age of 55 are less likely to be involved in such activities.

What are the signs?

The following factors are not necessarily evidence of money mule recruitment, but they are very common signs:

  • Money muling ads or announcements may replicate an existing company’s website and have a similar web address to give the scam more credibility.
  • When an email is used, the text is often very brief and there are grammar and spelling mistakes. The email address associated with the offer uses a web domain (Gmail, Yahoo, Libero, Hotmail, etc.) instead of a company domain.
  • The ads usually say that a foreign company is seeking “local and national representatives” or “agents” who will act on their behalf for a certain period, sometimes to avoid high transaction costs or local taxes.
  • The job offer requires the transfer of money or property.
  • The specific duties involved are not described.
  • The job offer does not list educational or experience requirements.
  • All interactions and transactions will be online. The job offer promises potentially significant earnings for a small commitment.

How can you protect yourself from money muling?

  • If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Be especially wary of unsolicited emails or social media contacts that promise you easy earnings.
  • Check the contact details (address, telephone number, email address and website) of the company and find out if it is registered in your country.
  • Beware of job offers from people or companies abroad, because it is more difficult for you to find information on their legal status.
  • Don’t disclose your bank account details or other personal information to anyone except people you know and trust.
  • Look out for the warning signs mentioned above and do some research before accepting any proposal.

What should you do?

  • If you have received an email like this, do not respond and do not click on links in the message. Inform the police immediately.
  • If after reading this guide you think you have been involved in money muling, immediately stop any money transfer and notify the authorities and your bank or the service used to make the transaction.

#DontBeaMule campaign material