The FBI has produced an awareness booklet to help prevent innocent people from accidentally becoming money mules for online scammers.
They are also encouraging people to share their money laundering experiences on social media using #DontBeAMule.
People are being contacted by strangers via email, social media or online dating platforms and promised an easy way to earn some money.
They’re told that all they need to do is accept large sums of money into their bank accounts and transfer it out again, obtain a cashier’s check, or withdraw it as smaller amounts of cash.
FBI Special Agent James Abbot said: “Money mules are needed to help move stolen money from country to country, avert the scrutiny of financial institutions, and mask the identity of the individuals involved in these largely Internet-enabled crimes.
“Being able to easily move the profits from these crimes contributes to their rapid growth and threatens the safety and security of everyone who has a presence online.”
#DYK a money mule is a person who transfers illegally obtained money between different payment accounts, very often in different countries, on behalf of others? #DontBeAMule and report offers and illegal activity to law enforcement immediately. https://t.co/pcL3DENbIX pic.twitter.com/h5fKtI9JRU
— FBI (@FBI) December 17, 2018
Although many of the people who are acting as money mules are unaware they are doing so they could still face prison time.
A recent BBC Panorama episode investigated online dating scams. The journalists uncovered a fraudster who was posing as a member of the US military and using a mule to receive the money from his victims.
Scamalytics co-founder Dan Winchester spoke to talkRADIO last month about romance fraud in the online datind industry.
Read more here.