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What is Money Muling, and why is it ‘on the rise?’

There has been a rise in anecdotal reports of people being asked to take part in Money Muling schemes. Most people won’t have heard of it, or even realized they were being offered to take part in illegal activities. So what is money muling, and why is it on the rise?

What is Money Muling?

Money muling is a type of money laundry where criminals convince people to open new bank accounts, so they can pay in money, and then pay it out to another account. Usually the payout amount is less than the pay in amount, so the account owner receives that money as a commission.

This will usually be part of a chain of payments meant to make tracing funds as difficult as possible for the authorities to track, the end goal being to get the money into an offshore bank account. The main recruitment method is by receiving a message by someone on Snapchat or Instagram, but according to Europol, these are the warning signs to look out for, for people who believe they may be being lured into work as a money mule:

  • Money mule adverts can copy a genuine company’s website and have a similar web address in order to make the scam seem 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!, Windows Live Hotmail, etc.) which does not match the company name.
  • Money mule adverts normally state that they are 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 are not described.
  • The position does not 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.
  • Someone you do not 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 are 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 will always be requested to give your bank account number.

If you believe you have been offered this sort of work, or believe you are caught up in a money laundering scheme, you should report it to the police.

Why is Money Muling on the rise?

With so many of us struggling financially due to the pandemic, it is not surprising that people would accept offers of money they normally wouldn’t. The people most often offered money muling work are under the age of 35, and can be as young as 12. They are targeted mainly through Instagram and Snapchat by message offering “free money”. For a student unable to get bar work or a teenager unable to get a part-time job due to the pandemic, this could be the easy win they have been looking for. But it comes at a cost: the maximum sentence for money laundry is 14 years in prison, but even if they escape a jail sentence that they will never be able to work in financial services and will find getting things like mortgages almost impossible.

The best thing we can all do is to promote this as an issue, making as many people aware of this scam as possible.

For further reading, please consult this article on Europol.

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