As investigators of Romance Scams, it is a very familiar story for victims to describe how they were sending money to their scammer via several nominated bank accounts.
In some circumstances these accounts were positioned on a global scale, which were consistent with the scammer’s contrived set of circumstances (eg needing to pay businesses for supply of goods etc). Each of these accounts are in the name of different individuals who are all citizens of that country. Of course once the money reached these accounts, the victim neither heard from the account holders or saw their money again.
In organised crime syndicates, such as those who commit cybercrime, the account holders are better termed as “money mules”. Individuals who assist the cybercriminals by allowing them to use their bank account to deposit the victims funds, before they themselves will move the money on to another account set up the scammers less a commission fee agreed on between the two parties.
Previously mule recruitment was better known within the employment scam circles, however a more sinister trend has emerged whereby the scammer will use unsuspecting victims of romance scams to receive funds deposited by other unsuspecting romance scam victims. Both victims’ funds are then forwarded to an offshore account set up by the scammer, or may pass through several other victims’ accounts before reaching the hands of the criminal.
Alternatively the ‘mule’ may be asked to receive goods, purchased online through fraudulently obtained funds, and requested to forward these on to an overseas address. A promised payment may sometimes be arranged, however in most romance scam related cases, promises of a new life together often substitute any monetary gain for the victim.
Have you met someone online that has asked you to receive funds or goods on their behalf? Quite simply, this is money laundering and any individual assisting these criminals can be prosecuted and have their whole bank account frozen. A conviction for an offence of money laundering may carry a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.
If you have received money in your bank account, or have received and/or forwarded goods under these circumstances, please immediately report the incident to your bank and your local police station.
An overview of Mule Recruitment