A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money between bank accounts and different countries. Money mules can be recruited by criminals sometimes unknowingly, and if caught can be prosecuted.
Criminals who want to dispose of funds that are the proceeds of crime look to move the money into a different account, perhaps one that may not be associated with them.
The process starts when a money mule accepts funds into his or her bank account. Once the money mule has accepted the money into his or her personal bank account, he or she then transfers it elsewhere, keeping some of the money as a payment for helping with the transaction.
Criminals may advertise on social media, via job advertisements or other avenues offering a lot of money for a small amount of work.
Ronald Noble, founder of RKN Global, notes that no legitimate or authentic business will ask anyone to receive a money transfer to their bank account.
A worrying example of this crime occurring was highlighted when media agencies reported that the number of young people who have been acting as money mules has doubled recently. Money that may have come from terrorism, drug smuggling and trafficking was involved in more than 8,500 cases between January and September 2017.
Students between the ages of 18 and 24 seem to be the most vulnerable. Often short on cash, some might view money muling as a quick way to make money. Unfortunately, when money mules are caught their accounts could be closed, they may earn a bad credit record and be refused loans and mortgages, and they might even face 10+ years in prison.
Cifas, a fraud prevention organisation in the UK, has launched a campaign in the hope that fewer young people will be tempted into the world of money muling. This will protect them and help thwart criminals looking to hide their ill-gotten gains.