European online lender October recently alerted consumers about the money muling fraud. The company explained what usually takes place when bad actors carry out these fraudulent activities and shares tips to avoid getting scammed.
October notes that if you’re being offered “opportunities” to make easy money from home or ways to get money in only a day, then these “promises” can undoubtedly be quite tempting. These tactics may be used to capture the public’s attention on social media channels and the Internet and that we have probably all seen them by now.
October explains that this is how “financial mules” get started, a practice of online or Internet-based fraud that has been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. These abusive activities have been exploiting some of the most vulnerable people during these unprecedented times.
The definition used by Europol for these “money mules” is: “individuals who, often unwittingly, were recruited by criminal organizations as money laundering agents to conceal the origin of illicitly obtained funds.”
Money mules are people who receive funds acquired by engaging in illicit activities into their bank account and then they transfer this money to other accounts, usually abroad, in exchange for a “commission,” October notes.
The online lender adds that the profile “most sought after” by these organizations are new immigrants, the unemployed, students, and individuals experiencing financial problems. They are often younger men (between the ages of 18 and 34).
“Practice this type of activity, whether voluntarily or not, is a criminal offense as it involves collaborating with criminal organizations in money laundering to finance other forms of organized crime (drug traffic, human traffic, terrorism, etc.). Committing this type of offense could have serious consequences, ranging from prison sentences to fines or problems in opening a bank account in the future.”
Money mules are usually recruited by cybercriminals, who mainly find their victims via social media networks. They often use methods like online advertising with “get-rich-quick” schemes and messages, closed or private Facebook groups, forums or instant messaging apps. They also use fake job offers and might fake the pages of real businesses in order give their messages more authenticity or credibility.
Scammers often claim to be a “company” and contact their victims via servers like Gmail or Yahoo instead of a corporate domain. These messages usually have many grammatical errors.
The Asociación Española de Banca (Spanish Banking Association in English) has shared details that should make us suspect that someone might be trying to recruit us as financial mules.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Receiving emails or social media messages from unknown senders promising easy money.
- Receiving job offers with high salaries and few requirements or effort.
- Receiving job offers that do not describe the tasks and only ask for a current account.
- Receiving advertising in which a supposedly international company is looking for local agents.
- Receiving requests to give your email address on dating sites.
- Being contacted by a “company” through servers such as Gmail or Yahoo instead of using a corporate domain. These messages often contain grammatical errors.
The advice or suggestions provided by the Asociación Española de Banca to avoid these issues are:
- Do not answer email messages that could be considered suspicious, no click on any links.
- Do not give your bank account details to anyone you do not trust.
- Inform yourself about the company making suspicious offers.In cases where you suspect that someone is trying to use your account as a mule, stop trading immediately, report it to the police and notify your bank.
This past December, Europol and EU law enforcement officials kicked off the #DontBeaMule campaign in order to increase awareness of the serious risks of falling victim to money mule organizations. The campaign intends to inform the general public about how these cybercriminals operate, and how we can protect ourselves.
The October team added:
“As a financial platform, we carry out exhaustive anti-fraud and money laundering checks to ensure that the platform is not used for illegal purposes. Through our KYC (Know Your Client) process, we verify the identity of users before they can start lending on our platform. With these checks, we aim to build a relationship of trust and detect accounts opened with the intention of serving as a vehicle to transfer funds of illegal origin. Also, even when the user has their account operational, we keep carrying on due diligence, during the whole relationship.”