What do college students (and recent grads), small business owners, the newly divorced and the newly retired all have in common?
They make ideal targets for criminal organizations looking to hook new “money mules” into their schemes. Most of them are looking for ways to make a little extra money, and not all of them are properly suspicious or jaded enough to spot a scam.
Money mules typically start out as unknowing accomplices to a crime, but they may eventually become aware of red flags and obvious issues.
What are some red flags that should make you ask questions?
Money mules can get into their situation in all different kinds of ways, but you should be particularly cautious if you see any of these signs:
- You were approached by someone online who expressed romantic interest in you, but now they’re asking you to open bank accounts for them or transfer packages for them to third parties. You’ve never even met in person.
- You’re given a job offer that promises easy money for easy work. You might be asked to drop some packages off at the post office (using your bank card and identification) or simply asked to deliver the parcels of cash across the border of the state.
- Your new “side gig” requires you to open a cryptocurrency account and use it in some transactions that you don’t even understand – while you get to keep a portion of the proceeds as your pay.
- You’re being asked to open multiple accounts at different banks, or you’re being asked to make deposits in small amounts at different banks for your “employer.”
- You’re asked to sneak money through customs or through an airport on your person or in your luggage to avoid some kind of vague problems or fees.
By the time a typical money mule realizes that they’ve been used by a criminal organization to launder illegally obtained funds, they’re scared of the consequences. They may even have been told that they’re so deeply complicit that they’re absolutely bound to prison if they try to get out or contact the authorities.
If you’ve found yourself in a bad position and have been used as a money mule, get experienced legal guidance right away – even if you are not yet facing criminal charges. Help is available.