Money Mules: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Sonja Polimac

 · 12/02/2020  · 12/02/2020

Revolut is proud to be supporting Europol’s European Money Mule Action (EMMA) and #DontbeaMule initiative to spread awareness about money muling and how criminals are luring commonly young or vulnerable individuals to launder the proceeds of crime. The information provided below is obtained from Europol’s EMMA resources which you can find at the end of this blog.

What are money mules and money muling?

Money muling is a type of money laundering. Money mules help criminals remain anonymous while moving the proceeds of criminal activities around the world on their behalf. Money muling involves an individual, or group of individuals, receiving money from criminals and subsequently transferring it to another account. They could also withdraw the cash to give to another person. The mule will normally be rewarded with a commission for their involvement in the money laundering scheme.

Often the mule isn’t directly involved in the criminal activity that generates the funds, however, they’re accomplices as they’re directly involved in the chain to transfer the proceeds of the crime. Transferring the proceeds of crime is a form of money laundering which is a criminal offence in most countries. That means a money mule may face imprisonment and/or a substantial fine.

How are money mules recruited?

Money mules can be recruited through many different means that often look like legitimate offers to make  extra cash:

  1. Job offers, such as ‘money transfer agents’ or ‘mystery shoppers’ announced via online job forums, emails, social media (for example, on Facebook posts or in closed groups, Instagram, Snapchat) or pop-up ads
  2. Direct messages sent through instant messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, or by email
  3. Directly in person, on the street

The targeted individuals involved in money muling are often under 35, with gangs recently focusing on younger people between 12 and 21 years of age. They’re the perfect target for criminals, as their accounts are likely to be ‘clean’ and without a history of criminal activity. Plus, they might not fully understand the potential repercussions.

Additionally, prospective money mules are often individuals who are new to the country, such as students, unemployed people or anyone having recently gone through financial difficulties. Generally, criminals are looking for vulnerable people who can be incentivised to participate in the scheme hoping to make easy money or quick cash.

What are the warning signs?

Look out for the following red flags when searching for job opportunities or if you’re contacted by someone you don’t directly know.

Job Offers

  • Money mule adverts can copy a genuine company’s website and have a similar web address to make the scam look authentic.
  • Emails with fake job offers are often awkward and badly written. The sender’s email address is likely to be from a free web-based service (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) which doesn’t match the company name.
  • Money mule adverts normally state that they’re an overseas company seeking ‘local/national representatives’ or ‘agents’ to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high transaction fees or local taxes.
  • The position involves transferring money or goods.
  • The specific job duties aren’t described.
  • The position doesn’t list educational or experience requirements.
  • All interactions and transactions will be done online.
  • The offer promises significant earning potential for little effort.
  • The nature of the work of the fake company can vary, but the specifics of the job being advertised always include using your bank account to move money.

Direct Contact

  • Someone you don't know asks you to move their money through your bank account and offers you a cut.
  • The contact is established in person, through social media networks or instant messaging apps.
  • The opportunity to make easy money is presented as having no risks, using expressions such as ‘legit money’, ‘100% guaranteed’ and ‘same day cash’.
  • You’re told what to do and how much others have already earned for doing the same.
  • The reason why this is needed can vary, but you’ll always be asked to give your bank account number.

How to protect yourself?

Always remember, if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Never give your bank account or any other personal details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
  • Secure your bank cards. Don’t disclose your online banking login details, PIN, CVV number, etc.
  • Be very cautious of unsolicited emails or offers made over social media or in person, promising easy money.
  • Ignore any job offer involving money transfers through your bank account, regardless of how authentic they may seem.

Where can I report this?

If you have received job offers or been contacted directly in a way that mirrors any of the above red flags, inform the police and contact Revolut or your banking provider immediately. You could help prevent others from unwittingly becoming money mules and even help catch the criminals.

You can find further information from Europol here: