Don’t Fall for Money Mule Scams
What is a money mule?
A money mule, also sometimes referred to as a "smurfer," is a person who transfers money acquired illegally (stolen or fraud) in person, through a courier service, or electronically, on behalf of others. Typically, the mule is paid for services with a small part of the money transferred.
How money mule scams work
Money mule scams happen several ways. Someone might offer you a job, or say you’ve won a sweepstakes, or even start an online relationship with you. Whatever the story, next they want to send you money – and then ask you to send it on to someone else. They often say to wire the money or use gift cards.
But that money is stolen. And there never was a job, a prize, or a relationship – only a scam. That scammer was trying to get you to be a money mule.
Transferring money / valuables on behalf of others only benefits criminals and may lead to serious consequences for you. If you deposit a scammer’s check, it might clear, then when the bank discovers it’s a fake check, you’ll have to repay the bank. Also, if you help a scammer move stolen money – even if you didn’t know it was stolen – you could find yourself in legal trouble.
Avoid money mule scams
- Don’t engage in financial transactions with strangers
- Don’t take a job that promises easy money and involves sending or receiving money or packages
- Check any work-from-home opportunity or money transferring offer with a trusted family member or friend. You can also contact your Better Business Bureau chapter or access the state’s corporation directory to help verify if the business is legitimate.
- Report money mule activity/ scams as soon as possible
If you suspect a money mule scam
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your financial institution, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
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