SCAM ALERT: Money Mules
A money mule scam is when someone sends money to you and asks you to send a portion of it to someone else. They often ask you to use gift cards or wire transfers. The money they are providing you is likely stolen, drug trafficking and human trafficking are also common sources of the money, and they’re lying about the reason they need you to send it. The relationship, job, prize or other reason they use is not real and they are only using you to launder money.
How do you avoid it?
- Do not be a middle man. Do not let someone funnel money into your account in order for you to send it to others.
- Avoid jobs that ask you to transfer money. Don’t send money to a “client” or “supplier” on behalf of a company. It is never wise to use your own bank account for work related things.
- Never send money to collect a prize. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No legitimate contest will ever ask you to send money for a prize. Also, if you did not enter to win the prize, be skeptical of anyone claiming to have a prize for you.
- Don’t send or accept money from an online love interest. Never send money to someone you have never met. It is a bad sign when they start asking you for money.
What if it happened to you?
If you already deposited the scammer’s check, it may clear a portion at first but then turn out to be a fake check later on. You will be on the hook to settle any money. You could even get into legal trouble, including prison, for helping a scammer move stolen money. A scammer can also use your account information for a number of things if you gave them your information.
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 and/or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
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