Thousands of innocent people get tricked into moving money every year thanks to money mule schemes.

What’s a money mule? That’s someone who transfers illegally obtained cash between accounts.

The FBI is warning people to beware. In the past 4 years, complaints about this type of activity have tripled. Some of these scams are advertised as work-from-home jobs on employment websites.

According to the FBI, these crooks will start off by asking you to do what seems like legitimate work, maybe researching prices or other business information. Then, the unsuspecting employee will be asked to accept a deposit into their account or open a new account to accept funds for the business.

The FBI says these are the signs you may be acing as a money mule.

  • You receive an unsolicited email or contact over social media promising easy money for little to no effort.
  • The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based email (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or Outlook).
  • You are asked to open a bank account in your own name, or in the name of a company you form, to receive and transfer money.
  • As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then “process funds” or “transfer funds” via a wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
  • You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
  • Your duties have no specific job description.
  • Your online companion, whom you have never met in person, asks you to conduct financial transactions that they should reasonably be able to do for themselves, and offers to share the proceeds of that transaction with you.
  • Your online companion is adamant that you keep the relationship and the associated financial transactions secret.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
  • Be wary when an employer asks you to form a company to open a new bank account.
  • Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.
  • Be wary when job advertisements are poorly written with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
  • Be suspicious when the individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
  • Perform online searches to check the information from any solicitation emails and contacts.
  • Ask the employer, “Can you send a copy of the license/permit to conduct business in my county or state?”
  • Utilize the privacy settings on your social media and be selective about the information you make public.
  • If you are unsure whether or not you are being used as a money mule and you are uncomfortable talking to law enforcement, consult with your local bank branch.

How to Respond

  • If you have received solicitations of this type, do not respond to them and do not click on any links they contain. Inform your local police or the FBI.
  • If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme, stop transferring money immediately and notify your bank, the service you used to conduct the transaction, and law enforcement.