The money muling fraud: what is it and how to avoid it?

Making money from home? Get money in a day? Promises, undoubtedly tempting, that capture the public’s attention on social networks and the internet and that we have probably all have seen them. This is how financial mules get started, a practice of online fraud that has been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, making people affected by the financial crisis to be tricked.

In this article we tell you all about this practice: how and why cybercriminals recruit financial mules, how to avoid it and how October acts against this phenomenon.

What are the money mules?

The definition used by Europol for these “money mules” is: “individuals who, often unwittingly, were recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering agents to conceal the origin of illicitly obtained funds”.

Money mules are people who receive money of illegal origin in their bank account and transfer it to other bank accounts, usually located abroad, in exchange for a commission.

The profile most sought after by these organisations are newly arrived immigrants, the unemployed, students and people with economic problems. They are usually young men, between 18 and 34 years old.

Practice this type of activity, whether voluntarily or not, is a criminal offence as it involves collaborating with criminal organisations in money laundering to finance other forms of organised crime (drug traffic, human traffic, terrorism, etc.). Committing this type of offence could have serious consequences, ranging from prison sentences to fines or problems in opening a bank account in the future.

How are money mules recruited?

Money mules are recruited by cybercriminals, who mainly operate and recruit their victims through social networks. They often use methods such as online advertising with “get-rich-quick” messages, closed Facebook groups, forums or instant messaging applications. They also use fake job offers and may even fake the pages of real companies to give their messages more authenticity.

The Asociación Española de Banca (Spanish Banking Association in English) reports which details should make us suspect that someone is trying to recruit us as financial mules. Here are some of them:

  • 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.

How can we protect ourselves?

The advices given by the Asociación Española de Banca to avoid the above-mentioned situations are:

  • Do not answer to emails 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.

At European level, last December, Europol and EU law enforcement authorities launched the #DontBeaMule campaign to raise awareness of the risks of falling victim to money mule organisations. The campaign aims to inform the public about how criminals operate, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they get involved in one of these situations.

How does October ensure that the platform is not used for illegal purposes?

At October, 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 a due diligence, during the whole relationship.

In the end, be careful whenever you make transactions over the internet. Cybercrime is growing every day and we must protect ourselves and report illegal situations.