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Let’s say someone asked to use your bank account, and in return they’d leave you some funds. Would red flags go off in your mind? Hopefully they would for all of us.
Criminals need to secretly move funds from their scams, drug running and human trafficking. And in order to get as many “layers” between them and the cops as they can, they funnel it through many different bank accounts. This is where money mules come in.
A mule is someone who “carries” money – knowingly or not – for a criminal. After the funds land in their account, they may end up transferring it electronically, taking it out in cash or buying virtual currency like Bitcoin.
Some mules are more aware of what’s happening than others. Some may not even suspect that their account is being used by criminals to transfer money and cover up the fact that it’s illegal. That’s what “laundering” is: making illegal funds seem clean and legit.
But depending how much money we’re talking about, mules can get up to seven years in prison for receiving funds from criminal proceeds. You might get all your bank accounts immediately shut down, get your identity stolen or have to pay back victims yourself.
It’s a big deal. So we need to protect our bank accounts and make sure this doesn’t happen.
It rarely plays out like the question above, with someone asking you directly to use your bank account. It would be more like, would red flags go up if you worked for a company that requested to move money through your bank account? It can become part of one of those “work from home” schemes you see online.
Criminals recruit money mules on social media, online dating, online classifieds, job-seeking sites. They typically target uni students, migrants, small business owners, recent retirees, lonely folks and job seekers. But anyone with a bank account can be in their sights.
You may be a money mule if:
It’s a wild west out there – keep your bank account safe!
For more about money mules and staying safe, see cffc.org.nz/money-mules.