Previous | Four tips for avoiding overdraft fees Next | Is Mobile Banking Safe for My Business?
May 22, 2020 / Ray Wills
How to protect yourself against money mule scams

How to protect yourself against money mule scams

By Ray Wills, security officer at F&M Trust

Has someone ever tried to lure you into a money laundering scheme? It sounds like something out of a movie, but it’s all too real for victims that scammers use to move stolen money under the guise of something harmless, like a work-from-home opportunity.

Here’s how it works: Someone offers you a job online or says you won a cash prize. As such, they’re going to send you money, but there’s a catch. They want you to send some of it to another person.

mules standing in fieldIt seems simple: Give them your bank information so they can transfer funds to your account, or wait for a check to arrive in the mail and deposit it into your account. Then, pass some of the money along to someone else, often via wire transfer or gift cards. You get to keep the rest.

Easy way to make a quick buck, right?

Well, that money is most likely stolen. There is no job, and there is no cash prize. This person was most likely trying to use you to move stolen money, and if you do it, you’re what law enforcement officials call a “money mule.” It’s illegal, by the way. Even if you didn’t know the money was stolen, you could face legal trouble. You could face financial trouble, too.

If you deposit a check, send the majority to someone as told and spend your portion, the check could bounce — and you’ll be on the hook for repaying the bank in full. 

Warning signs
The following signs do not necessarily mean you are being solicited to act as a money mule, but they are good indicators, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team:

  • The job involves the transfer of money or goods.
  • Specific responsibilities of the job are not outlined.
  • The company is located outside the U.S.
  • There are no listed education or experience requirements for the job.
  • All transactions and interactions are done online.
  • The writing is awkward.
  • The email address associated with the job offer uses web-based services like Gmail or Yahoo, rather than an organization-based domain.

How to protect yourself
You can protect yourself from falling victim to this type of scam by adhering to the following Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines:

  • Do not accept an unsolicited check you receive in the mail.
  • Never agree to send money to claim a prize. This is always a scam.
  • Don’t accept or send money at the request of a friend or love interest whom you’ve never met in person.
  • Keep your banking information secure. If you give scammers your account information or online banking credentials, they will misuse it. 

If you think you might be involved in a money mule scam, do not transfer any more money. Notify your bank, and report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Recent Articles
Is Mobile Banking Safe for My Business?
Is Mobile Banking Safe for My Business?

Is Mobile Banking Safe for My Business?

September 30, 2022 / Cynthia E. Marconi

Grandparent Scams Can Cost Victims Thousands of Dollars
Grandparent Scams Can Cost Victims Thousands of Dollars

Grandparent Scams Can Cost Victims Thousands of Dollars

September 22, 2022 / F&M Trust

Passkeys and the Future of Estate Planning
Passkeys and the Future of Estate Planning

Passkeys and the Future of Estate Planning

September 15, 2022 / The Merrill Anderson Company

The biggest financial mistakes business owners make
The biggest financial mistakes business owners make

The biggest financial mistakes business owners make

September 08, 2022 / Rich Best

Green Practices are Good for Nature and for Business
Green Practices are Good for Nature and for Business

Green Practices are Good for Nature and for Business

September 01, 2022 / F&M Trust

Planned giving in 2023
Planned giving in 2023

Planned giving in 2023

August 25, 2022 / The Merrill Anderson Company

Student Loan Scams
Student Loan Scams

Student Loan Scams

August 18, 2022 / Ray Wills

Unconventional Ways to Fund a Small Business
Unconventional Ways to Fund a Small Business

Unconventional Ways to Fund a Small Business

August 11, 2022 / Arla Wallace

Fear of Missing Out is not a sound investment philosophy
Fear of Missing Out is not a sound investment philosophy

Fear of Missing Out is not a sound investment philosophy

August 04, 2022 / The Merrill Anderson Company

Join our e-newsletter

Sign up for our e-newsletter to get new content each month.

NOTICE: YOU ARE LEAVING F&M TRUST!

You are now leaving the F&M Trust website. Links to third-party sites are provided for your convenience. Such sites are not within our control and may not follow the same privacy, security or accessibility standards as ours. F&M Trust neither endorses nor guarantees offerings of the third-party providers, nor is F&M Trust responsible for the security, content or availability of third-party sites, their partners or advertisers.