Fraud guide

Money mules

What is a money mule?

A money mule is a person who is paid to receive money into their account before either they or someone else moves the money on. Sometimes disguised as a quick and easy way to make some cash, being a money mule is a serious crime which can result in a prison sentence of up to fourteen years. 

How does it happen?

Social media ads

One of the most common ways criminals get people to become money mules is via adverts online and on social media. Mule recruiters advertise ways to get rich quickly by using pictures of luxury lifestyles and bank accounts with high balances. If you reply they might ask you to receive a payment, hold on to it for a while, then pay it on to a different person and keep some of the money for yourself. They might also ask you to hand over all the login details for your account so they can use it temporarily.    

Information Message

Fake investment schemes

If you’ve searched for investment opportunities online and someone has offered to pay you a ‘start-up fee’ to receive and move money on as part of the deal, this could be a lie to get you to act as a money mule. Investments that promise to make you a lot of money when you’ve only put a small amount in can sound tempting, but this is one way criminals disguise money muling.

Information Message

Romance scams

Romance scams occur when a criminal uses a fake online profile to form a relationship with you. If a love interest has asked you to help them move money this could be a crime, no matter the reason they’ve given you. They might say they’re in another country for work and will get in trouble if they can’t complete their business deal, or they urgently need your help to move money for medical expenses or a time limited investment. There’ll always be a reason why they can’t make the payments themselves. 

Information Message

Rent an account

Asking you to rent out the use of your existing account or that ask you to open a new account for someone else to use is another way that money mule recruiters work. They might ask you to clear out any of your own money and hand over full control of your account to them, including your online banking, cards, and contact details. They’ll say that you can take back control of your account at any time it’s all safe to do, but this isn’t true. 

Information Message

Fake job ads

Mule recruiters can target job seekers by offering roles that are too good to be true. Fake adverts are sometimes posted on social media and job websites offering quick and easy ways to make cash. They might ask you to use your own account to process payments for them. However ok they try to make it seem; this is a crime.  

Information Message

Fake loan schemes

Adverts offering you a quick and cheap loan could be trying to get you to act as a mule, especially if they promise to give you a loan no matter your financial history. They might overpay you and say it was an accident, then ask you to send the overpayment to an account that’s different to the one that sent you the loan originally. Or they might say you need to boost your credit score to get the loan, and to do so you can receive money into your account and move it on.    

Information Message

What to look out for

If you become a money mule you are involved in money laundering. Even if you didn’t realise what you were doing the penalties can be very serious. Look out for:

  • Online adverts promising easy ways to make a lot of cash quickly
  • Anyone asking to pay you to receive money into your account then send it on to someone else 
  • Anyone asking to pay you to let them use your account or card 
  • Jobs that sound easy but that pay high wages

How to protect yourself

  1. 01

    Never accept a payment from someone you don’t know or trust, or when you don’t know where the money is from 

  2. 02

    Don’t apply for or accept job offers that ask you to move money through your own accounts

  3. 03

    Never give your account details to someone you don’t know

  4. 04

    Talk to friends and family, especially young people, to help them spot the signs too

If you suspect you’ve been caught up in money muling

If you’ve given someone any of your personal security details call the bank on a trusted number, like the number on the back of your bank card. If you’ve been sent money, don’t move it on and contact your bank for help.

If you wish to report a crime anonymously, you can contact CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit their website at https://crimestoppers-uk.org/