What is money muling? What are the consequences?

A money mule (also known as a ‘smurfer’) is someone who receives and moves illegally acquired money (e.g. stolen through scams) on behalf of someone else. They might move it physically from one location to another, but more commonly, they move it by letting someone make money transfers through their bank account.

Essentially, criminals use you as a middleman to move their dirty money around. This makes the illegal money harder to pin on them, because it’s tied to you instead.

Criminals often target young people through Snapchat and Instagram promising that it’s a risk-free way to make hundreds of pounds in minutes. They also recruit mules through job ads with titles like “payment processing agent”, “money transfer agent”, or “local processor”. 

It can sound harmless and like a quick way to get rich. But it is often funding serious crime like drugs, child trafficking or even terrorism. It is also far from being risk-free.

If you have already been used as a money mule, read these three steps to help you get yourself out of this dangerous situation. 

What might be the consequences of being a money mule?

  • Loss of money: Your bank might close your account, leaving you without access to your money or the promised payment for being a mule.
  • Financial health: It can have a massive impact on your credit rating (check out the link to see why this is important). Since it’s a type of fraud, you may get a fraud marker which will stay on your record for 6 years with CIFAS (The UK’s leading fraud prevention service, managing the largest database of instances of fraudulent conduct in the country).
  • Legal trouble: It’s illegal and you may be convicted and imprisoned for up to 14 years. Claiming ignorance and saying, ”I didn’t know” won’t cut it with the law.
  • Career prospects: a conviction can make it harder to get a job and limit your options.
  • Personal safety: If something goes wrong and the money doesn’t reach the intended person, you may be threatened by the criminals and required to pay the money out of pocket.

You can watch this BBC video on the dangers of being a money mule for more info.

What should I do if someone contacts me about being a money mule?

If you get contacted through social media, then immediately report the account for illegal activity. This will hopefully stop someone else falling victim in the future. You can also report it to ActionFraud or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously online or by calling 0800 555 111 – select ‘Fraud’ as the type of crime or incident.

Most importantly – don’t share your account details with someone you don’t trust.

Now that you know what money muling is and why you should stay away from it, let’s explore some tips to avoid becoming a money mule.

Three top tips

Be sceptical of “easy money” offers

If someone approaches you with a ”quick and easy money-making opportunity,” be cautious. Legitimate job opportunities don’t typically involve transferring money between accounts or receiving money from strangers. Always question the source of the funds and the reasons behind the transfer.

Stay sharp and informed

Knowledge is power. Stay informed about the latest scams and illegal activities. Keep an eye on credible sources like government websites, news articles, and anti-fraud organizations to stay updated on common scams and fraud tactics. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself. Visit Financial Fraud Action UK’s Scam Academy to learn about new types of scams, and how to avoid them.

Don’t go it alone

If you ever feel unsure about a money deal or suspect something fishy is going on, reach out to a trusted adult, like a parent or teacher. They’ve got the experience to guide you and help you make the smartest choices.

Remember, you have a bright future ahead of you, and getting involved in illegal activities like money muling can mess it all up. So, protect yourself, stay sharp, and make informed decisions.

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