What is a ‘money mule’, and how to avoid becoming one?

Money Magazine
4 Min Read

The use of ‘mules’ in committing criminal activities is common across the world, and it continues to pose major challenges to efforts to curb fraudulent activities. In financial services, there is a concept of ‘money mules’, which can be described as individuals who are recruited by criminals to facilitate the movement of unlawfully acquired funds through their personal bank accounts or other means. 

Roshan Jelal, Head of Fraud at FNB Commercial, explains that “Money mule recruitment typically involves luring unsuspecting individuals with promises of easy money or job opportunities. These individuals are often unaware that they are participating in illegal activities. They may be asked to receive funds into their bank accounts and withdraw the money in cash or transfer it to another account or send it through alternative payment methods. In return, they are usually allowed to keep a portion of the funds as a commission.

“The funds involved in money mule activities are often the proceeds of criminal acts, such as online scams, identity theft, bank fraud, or money laundering. By using money mules, criminals attempt to obscure the origin of the funds and make it more challenging for law enforcement to track and seize the illicit proceeds,” he adds.

Engaging in money-mule activities is illegal and can have serious consequences for the individuals involved. One could face criminal charges and imprisonment, lose one’s career, and legitimate income, and even suffer damage to personal reputation and brand. Hence, it is essential for individuals to be aware of the signs of money mule recruitment and understand how to protect themselves from becoming unwitting participants in such illegal activities.

To guard against becoming a money mule and falling victim to criminal schemes, FNB shares some crucial tips:

•         Be vigilant: Stay alert and familiarise yourself with the concept of money mules. Many financial institutions, including FNB, provide a lot of useful information about scams and tactics employed by criminals . Try to access and follow the latest updates.

•         Be wary of unsolicited job offers: Exercise caution when approached with job offers that involve receiving and transferring funds through your personal account(s). Be suspicious of any job that promises easy money or requires minimal or no effort.

•         Question unusual requests: If you get requests to receive money from unfamiliar sources or transfer funds to accounts unknown to you, be suspicious. Your bank account should only be used for activities you can vouch for.

•         Protect your personal information: Be protective of your personal information and avoid using third-party devices to store credentials such as usernames and passwords. Equally, be mindful of the type of information you share on social media platforms.

•         Report suspected criminality: If you suspect that you are being recruited as a money mule or have already become involved, report it immediately to your local law enforcement authorities or your bank. Prompt reporting can help prevent financial losses and assist in the investigation of criminal activities.

“By staying informed, you can protect yourself from being exploited as a money mule. Remember, your awareness and proactive actions play a crucial role in combating financial crimes and creating a safer environment for everyone. Consumers who use FNB as their financial services provider can access more information about fraud modus operandi and preventive measures through the Security Centre feature on our digital channels,” Jelal concludes.

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