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By Ashleigh, K-Staff
You receive an email that says “You culd be making $1000 a day werking from home. Apply here!”
(Yes, those typos are intentional in this instance). You’re promised working from the comfort of your home, making your own schedule, and little to no work all for a little extra cash. Your new employer asks you to open a new account that they can deposit money into, and they ask you to wire some of your money into another account. You wire $10,000 to this other account and soon get a call from the FBI and realize you’ve been scammed.
While you might be able to find a job that can pay you $1,000 a week working from home, this type of setup and method of receiving a paycheck is a scam. And it’s common enough that the United States Postal Service recently released a warning about thieves and scammers who are using innocent or unwitting victims to move ill-gotten gains through legitimate accounts for purposes of hiding it from authorities.
A money mule transfers illegally acquired money or items on behalf of a criminal, either unknowingly or willingly. Mules are recruited to move money in various ways, through bank accounts, cash or virtual currency such as Bitcoin. Criminals exploit their mules by adding layers of recipients to their money trail between them and the victim. Money mules are used to launder the proceeds from criminal activities including fraud, drugs, and human trafficking. These layers make it more difficult for the police to track money from a victim to the criminal.
Yes, even though you might unknowingly be a mule, there could still be consequences—acting as a money mule is still illegal and punishable. Federal charges you could face include mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. For that reason, prevention is very important.
Everyone and anyone. In truth, we all can be susceptible to becoming a money mule. However, there are certain groups of people that criminals like to target, including students, new migrants, small business owners, retirees, job seekers, those looking for romance and those suffering from memory loss. The scammers capitalize on the emotions, stress, and lack of knowledge and experience of their victims to convince them to perform illegal activities.
According to the FBI, there are three types of money mules, unknowing, witting or complicit.
If you suspect you have been—or have been approached to become—a money mule, your first action should be to stop all communication with suspected criminals and cancel any transfers of money or valuable items. Keep your receipts. Hang on to any of your contacts and communication, such as, email, texts or chats. Then, let Kirtland FCU (and your other financial institutions) know as soon as possible by calling 1-800-880-5328.
Sources: FBI.gov (https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/money-mules#Stories)