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Term of the week: money mule

May 20, 2015

Money mules are often used to surfeit money or goods on behalf of third parties. The technique is used by a variety of criminals including terrorists, who use the method to transfer money to each other to finance operations. One book defines a money mule as:

A person who transfers money and/or reships valuable, fraudulently-obtained goods. The money mule is often an innocent person who is misled into acting as a go-between in a scam. The instigator is usually a criminal who operates with impunity from another country.

SecurityIntelligence.com reviewed common money mule schemes in an article last fall covering work-from-home, secret shopper, lottery and inheritance schemes:

Money mules are significant in the process of cashing out compromised financial accounts. A money mule is a person who receives and transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of others. Unknowing mules are likely recruited through online job advertisements and spam email. Job titles may include, but are not limited to, “mystery shopper,” “payment processing agent” or “money transfer agent.”

They also may be recruited through romance and lottery scams. Unknowing mules are vulnerable adults who are often older, lonely and potentially financially strapped. Fraudsters will start relationships with these individuals through online dating sites, social networking sites and/or job advertisement sites. The fraudster, acting as a predator, will attempt to cultivate a relationship with the victim based on lies.

Schemes that target unknowing participants are typically focused on employment and relationship scams. At some point, the victims of these schemes (particularly the employment scams) may become knowing, or at least half-suspecting, mules. They realize that they may be part of an illicit scheme but will continue to try to make money because of personal circumstances.

Read the rest of the SecurityIntelligence.com article here.

* Woodward, Jeannette, What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

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