Being a money mule is a serious offence and can come with big consequences if you get caught up in it. Here we will take a look at what it is, what they are used for, and how you can avoid becoming one.
What is a money mule?
A money mule is a form of money laundering. The money mule will provide their bank details so that the criminal can transfer money to their account. The money mule will then transfer money on to another account while keeping some back for themselves as payment.
What are money mules used for?
Money mules are used to help criminals cover their tracks. It’s a simple way they can make it more difficult for their profits to be traced. The money mule won’t know where the money will be coming from and can often be deceived into thinking it’s a legit business. In reality, the money will be coming from or used to fund some kind of illegal activity, such as drugs, human trafficking, or terrorism.
Is it a criminal offence?
Being a money mule is a criminal offence. Even if you were unaware that you were acting as one and had been tricked into thinking it was a legal job, it is still a criminal offence and you could get yourself into serious trouble. If you are caught, your account may be closed by your bank and you could struggle to get accepted for another account or any credit in the future. But that’s not all. You could also face a criminal conviction with up to 14 years in prison.
How to avoid becoming a money mule
The best way to avoid becoming a money mule is to be aware of the scam and to be cautious if you’re contacted by someone you don’t know.
Scammers will often entice people into becoming a money mule, without the victim even knowing it. Anyone can become a money mule, but it is usually a younger age group, between the ages 18-24 years, particularly students, who are targeted via social media. This age group is more likely to be unaware of what a money mule is or that it is illegal, and may also be more interested in a way to make quick cash. The criminals will also often target those who do not have a criminal record so that the activity will look less suspicious to the banks.
However, making yourself aware that this happens and how they can disguise the illegal activity as a way to deceive you is the first step in protecting yourself.
A few things to be wary of include:
- Easy money – The offer of quick and easy cash with little work.
- Work from home job adverts – Be careful of ‘work from home’ offers with little work and big rewards.
- Raffles and charities - There are many unlawful lotteries and donation requests on social media.
Fake charities and competitions
A popular way scammers can trick people into becoming a money mule is by getting them to participate in a fake charity, raffle, or other competitions. The victim will be unaware that they are fake and will happily take part in the competitions or even promote and host them for the scammers.
Lotteries in Great Britain can only be promoted for charities. They cannot be promoted for private or commercial gain. Many of the lotteries on social media are unlawful and by participating you could become party to the proceeds of a crime. If you run or promote one you may find your social media profile will be removed, your bank may close your account and you could face prosecution, be fined or imprisoned, or both. As for the prize - you might buy a ticket for a raffle that is never drawn and it is likely that there was never a prize to start with!
If you spot a raffle or a competition, do your research before you participate. Particularly if you are interested in getting involved with promoting or hosting the raffle. You should never send money or your bank details without knowing who you are dealing with.
What to do if someone tries to use you as a money mule?
If you are contacted on social media or another website, like Gumtree, and are asked to transfer money, even if it is promoted as a job, and no matter how good it sounds, do not do it!
- Don’t respond to ‘work at home’ job adverts that promise large amounts of money with little work, especially if the company is overseas.
- You should never provide your bank details to someone you do not know nor trust.
- You should report the account to the social media platform or website you have been contacted on for illegal activity to help prevent someone else from becoming a victim of the scam.
- You can also report the suspected illegal activity to Action Fraud.
For more information on money mules, check out moneymules.co.uk.