What does acting as a money mule look like?

23 June 2023

6 min read

Criminals need ways to disguise the money they make through crime, and to allow them to use it. One way they do this is by convincing people to become money mules. This is when someone receives a criminal’s money and then sends it on to another account.

Criminals are experts at manipulating people, and anyone could find themselves acting as a money mule without realising. But it can have serious consequences, including up to 14 years in prison. So it’s important to know what to look out for.

Below are Kris’ and Sarah’s experiences of acting as money mules.

Kris’ story

Kris received a WhatsApp message from a recruiter with an amazing job offer. The role would allow him to work from home, with flexible hours, for £500 per day, and with no experience necessary. Kris contacted the recruiter and was asked to provide photos of his passport and other ID, so that he could be ‘verified’.

The company asked Kris to open a bank account, and told him he’d receive a commission payment for handling money transfers. He was later instructed to open a cryptocurrency account, and this is when he became suspicious.

Kris asked the company why this was needed, and this is when the criminals changed their tone. They threatened him, and said he needed to do as they say and not ask questions. They said they had all his personal information, and they knew where he lived.

Kris was concerned by the threats, and did as instructed. Shortly after, we were contacted by another Bank to say that the money was related to a scam. Kris’ account was frozen and he was reported to the Police.

Sarah’s story

Sarah was a university student and working two part-time jobs to help with the rising cost of living. She received a friend request from a guy called Ben who she didn’t know via Instagram and they soon began chatting.

Sarah noticed Ben seemed to have a great lifestyle, posing with designer clothes, expensive watches, and on luxury holidays. Ben told Sarah how much he enjoyed his lifestyle, and claimed that she could live it too. She just needed to let him use her bank account to move money, and he would pay her for it.

Even though Sarah felt this was suspicious, she agreed and received £9,000 into her account. Ben provided her with some account details, and instructed her to move the money to it. He said we would then send her £600 once the transfer was done.

We were notified by another bank that the £9,000 paid in to Sarah’s account was actually money stolen from another woman as part of a scam. Sarah’s account was frozen and she was reported to the Police. She never did receive any payment from Ben.

How can I protect myself from acting as a money mule?

Anyone could be manipulated into acting as a money mule without realising. To protect yourself, you should:

  • Research all job offers and be especially wary of any where everything is done online
  • Avoid applying for jobs that are advertised through unexpected emails, texts, or messages in apps
  • Contact your bank if you receive large sums of money you weren’t expecting
  • Be cautious who you share your personal information with
  • Never agree to open an account in your name for someone else to use
  • Never agree to receive money into your account and then move it on.

You can find out more about money mules.

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