Picture of writing a check.

Money Mule Scams

Scammers may try to use you to move stolen money. If you help them, you could be what law enforcement calls a money mule.
 
Money mule scams happen several ways. The story often involves scams related to online dating, work-at-home jobs, or prizes. Scammers send money to you, sometimes by check, then ask you to send (some of) it to someone else. They often want you to use gift cards or wire transfers. Of course, they don’t tell you the money is stolen and they’re lying about the reason to send it. And there never was a relationship, job, or prize. Only a scam.
The fbi.gov  website warns that fraudsters are taking advantage of the uncertainty and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, access your personal and financial information, and use you as a money mule. We have recently seen local examples of this type of scam surrounding the PPP loans and other claims filed using people's identity. 
 
When criminals obtain money illegally, they have to find a way to move and hide the illicit funds. They scam other people, known as money mules, into moving this illicit money for them either through funds transfers, physical movement of cash, or through various other methods. Money mules are often targeted through online job schemes or dating websites and apps.
 
Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information, but is also a crime.
 
Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible. The FBI advises you to be on the lookout for the following:
 
Individuals claiming to be located overseas asking you to send or receive money on their behalf
 
Watch out for emails, private messages, and phone calls from individuals you do not know who claim to be located abroad and in need of your financial support. Criminals are trying to gain access to U.S. bank accounts in order to move fraud proceeds from you and other victims to their bank accounts. Common fictitious scenarios include:
  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. service members stationed overseas asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19 
  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. citizens working abroad asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19 
  • Individuals claiming to be U.S. citizens quarantined abroad asking you to send or receive money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling COVID-19 
  • Individuals claiming to be in the medical equipment business asking you to send or receive money on their behalf 
    Individuals affiliated with a charitable organization asking you to send or receive money on their behalf 
Criminals are good at making up reasons to help them move money. Don’t do it. The money may be from other people they scammed. You may be helping criminals hurt people just like you.
 
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your bank, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. 
 
People may be embarrassed or afraid to talk about their experiences, but you can help. A simple phone call, email or text, saying “Look what I just found” may make a difference in someone’s life.
 
Watch out for online job postings and emails from individuals promising you easy money for little to no effort. Common red flags that you may be acting as a money mule include:
  • The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based services such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, etc. 
  • You are asked to receive funds in your personal bank account and then “process” or “transfer” funds via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service businesses, such as Western Union or MoneyGram 
  • You are asked to open bank accounts in your name for a business
  • You are told to keep a portion of the money you transfer
Criminals are good at making up reasons to help them move money. Don’t do it. The money may be from other people they scammed. You may be helping criminals hurt people just like you.
 
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your bank, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. 
 
People may be embarrassed or afraid to talk about their experiences, but you can help. A simple phone call, email or text, saying “Look what I just found” may make a difference in someone’s life.

At PCH the winning is always free and you NEVER have to pay to claim a prize. Recognizing the difference between legitimate sweepstakes and other types of offers that may not be legitimate will help you protect yourself and your family.

If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you’ve won a prize– then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize – STOP! You have not heard from the real PCH.

Learn more about the PCH scams at https://info.pch.com/fraud-protection-2/