Money Mules: How Victims Become Criminals


How Money Mule Scams Work

Money mule scams are an easy way to turn innocent people into criminals without them even realizing it. According to the FBI, money mules are defined as a person who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf or at the direction of another and often receive a commission for the service. Other times, money mules provide assistance to scammers - without knowing they’re scammers - because they believe they have a trusting or romantic relationship with them and are simply doing the person a favor. Simply put, if someone sends you money and asks you to send it to another person, you could be a money mule.

Don’t let this happen to you.

It is easier than you may think to fall into a trap and become a money mule. Someone who you originally believed you could trust could turn out to be a scammer who simply sees you as a means to transfer their stolen funds. To better understand how money mule scams work, read the steps below:

  1. Someone offers you a job, tells you that you won a giveaway, or says they want to start dating you online.
  2. The scammer will then say they want to send you money, sometimes by check, then ask you to send it to someone else via gift cards or wire transfers. That money is stolen, often through internet-enabled frauds, thefts, and scams, in addition to drug trafficking and human trafficking.
  3. If you deposit the check you got from the scammer, the bank may discover that it’s fake and thus require you to repay it. The scammer may also misuse your account information if you gave it to them.
  4. If you help the scammer move stolen money, even if you didn’t realize it was stolen, you could get criminal charges.

With the above information in mind, it will help clarify how these scams work by reading real-life examples provided by the FBI. The Bureau conducted over 300 interviews with reported money mules to better understand how these victims became criminals without realizing it, and, as a result, gathered the following stories:

  • “A female who worked in early childhood education met a man on an online dating site. He was kind to her and told her he worked for a children’s charity. A few weeks after they began communication, the man asked her to receive some money into her account for his charity. Over the next several weeks, he attempted to wire a total of $250,000 into her account. He then instructed her to wire the money into other bank accounts or obtain cashier’s checks and mail them to individuals at his direction.
  • On another dating website, a man met another man who claimed he was a captain in the U.S. Army, stationed overseas. The “Army captain” told the man he was trying to arrange his travel home to the United States and needed the man’s assistance in receiving some money and sending it elsewhere. The man had $10,000 wired into his account and was instructed to withdraw the money in small chunks and send it to a woman in Texas.
  • A retired advertising executive who was looking to earn some extra money found a “work at home” opportunity online. He was hired and then directed to create a business and open a new bank account for that business. He was then told he’d receive a series of deposits and would be instructed where to send the money. He believed the business was facilitating importing and exporting.”

The examples above are frightening. They demonstrate how casual online conversations can turn victims of money mule scams into criminal offenders without even knowing it. To best protect yourself from becoming a money mule, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises you to adhere to the following advice:

  • Don’t accept a job that asks you to transfer money: If an “employer” tells you to send money to a “client” or “supplier,” decline their request, or else you may end up helping a scammer move stolen money.
  • Never send money to collect a prize: Legitimate companies wouldn’t ask you to pay money to receive a prize, as that is always a scam.
  • Don’t return money to an online love interest who sends you money: This is always a scam that will get you to move stolen money.

If you believe you are a money mule, stop all forms of contact with the scammer and do not move any more money for them. Then, notify your bank, the wire transfer company, or any gift card company involved. From there, report your incident to the (FTC) at Last but certainly not least, hire a criminal defense lawyer right away.

Roland Jeter of J. Roland Jeter, P.C. has defended the accused since 1978 and is committed to safeguarding the freedom and best interests of every client he represents. No person should ever suffer criminal charges for a crime they didn’t realize they committed, especially if they had zero intent to do so. As such, you can rest assured that Roland Jeter will go above and beyond to fight for reduced or dismissed charges on your behalf and work to clear your name altogether.

Contact us at (972) 330-4050 to get started on your defense.

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