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Expat Investor : July August 2007
FAMILY FINANCES A money mule is someone who, often unwittingly, passes stolen money between third parties, thereby hiding its origins, which will inevitably be linked to crime. As most of the criminals operating in this arena are located overseas and because it is not possible to make cross-border transfers out of UK online bank accounts overseas, a 'money mule' or 'money transfer agent' is required to launder funds typically obtained as a result of internet phishing and trojan horse banking scams. Once recruited by the fraudsters, money mules receive funds into their accounts which they then withdraw, minus their commission payment, and send overseas using a wire transfer service. Money mules are recruited by a variety of methods, including spam emails, adverts on genuine recruitment web sites, approaches to people with their CVs available online, instant messaging and adverts in newspapers. Positions on offer typically include headings such as 'UK representative', 'shipping manager', 'financial manager' or 'sales manager'. They offer you the chance to earn some easy money for a few hours' work each week, usually with the sole prerequisite that you have access to the internet. How they work 1. Fraudsters contact prospective victims with 'job vacancy' adverts via spam emails, letters, newspapers, internet chat rooms or job search web sites. Jobs are usually advertised as 'financial manager' or similar and suggest that no special knowledge is required. 2. The fraudsters then set about convincing their victims to come and work for their (almost certainly fake) companies. Some fraudsters even ask their intended mules to sign official- looking contracts of employment. 3. Once recruited, the money mules will receive funds into their accounts. These funds will have been stolen by the fraudsters, usually from another account that has been compromised via the internet. 4. The mules are then directed to forward the stolen funds overseas (minus their commission payment), typically using a wire transfer service. Although the prospect of making some easy money may appear attractive, it goes without saying that acting as a mule is an illegal activity. You will certainly become embroiled in any police investigation. When caught, money mules often have their bank accounts suspended, and any 'commission' payments will be recovered, as they are the proceeds of fraud. Remember, too, that you will be the easiest part of the chain to track down, and supplying any information to fraudsters may put you at risk from other forms of identity fraud. How to avoid becoming involved in a money mule scam Be cautious about accepting any unsolicited offers or 'job' The heavy burden of a money mule Fast Facts 66010 Bank Safe Online explains how money mules are set up and used by international fraudsters, and how to avoid becoming one yourself. opportunities offering you the chance to make some easy money. Be especially wary of offers from people or companies overseas, as it will inevitably be harder for you to find out if they really are who they say they are. Take steps to authenticate the bona fides of any company which makes you a job offer. Check their contact details (address, phone number, email address and web site) are correct and whether they are registered in the UK. Never give your bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them. How to identify a money mule advert Money mule adverts or offers can take a variety of different forms and they may even copy a genuine company's web site and register a similar web address to add an air of authenticity to the scam. These adverts will normally state that they are an overseas company seeking 'UK representatives' or 'agents' to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high charges for making payments, or local taxes. The advert may be written in poor English with grammatical and spelling mistakes and they may urge you not to inform the bank or the police about the reason for making the payments. The adverts may seek people with accounts at certain banks, or internet payment systems. Anyone who has disclosed their bank account details or received funds into their account for what they think could be a money mule scam should contact their bank immediately. Remember: Be wary of any unsolicited offers or opportunities for work, especially if the company is based overseas. Verify the details of any company that you consider dealing with and never give your bank account details to someone you don't know or trust. Contact your bank immediately if you think that you may have become involved in a money mule scam. If you see an opportunity to make some easy money and the offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is! Detailed advice on how to protect your computer is available on getsafeonline.org.uk www.banksafeonline.org.uk