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What's a money mule scam?

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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.

What happens next? If you deposit the scammer’s check, it may clear but then later turn out to be a fake check. The bank will want you to repay it. If you give the scammer your account information, they may misuse it. You could even get into legal trouble for helping a scammer move stolen money.

How can you avoid money mule scams?

  • Don’t accept a job that asks you to transfer money. They may tell you to send money to a “client” or “supplier.” Say no. You may be helping a scammer move stolen money.
  • Never send money to collect a prize. That’s always a scam, and they might be trying to get you to move stolen money.
  • Don’t send money back to an online love interest who’s sent you money. Also always a scam — and another a way to get you to move stolen money.

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. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Please share this information and the FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation. 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.

 

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money
Scam Tags:  Avoiding Scams

Comments

As good citizens and consumers we must spread the word of this FTC Consumer Protection advice. It's one of a consumer's best defense. Talking to each other about these possible scam methods can save many from innocently losing their money or identity.

I have a roommate who actually got a check via fed..to open an account for the sender,it was like almost 4,000 dollars..of course he didn’t,but fed..that’s pretty bold

Same thing here,but how did they get his name , address,phone number,number is not listed

So glad your roommate didn't take the fake check and open up an account for them, he could had probably ended up in serious trouble with the bank and maybe the law for money laundry. The scammers just gets to sit back and laugh while the victims are paying for everything the said scammer/scammers requested.
Anyone that should be getting into trouble is the scammers themselves but they hide all their illegal activities in the hands of innocent victims. Hopefully one day we will be rid of scammers for good but I know that will never happen.

the very good understands well

Thank you for yourself.

Does any agency have the resources to work with people who have been targeted for this type of scam, but haven't taken any action yet, to trace transactions and potentially catch the perpetrators?

From personal experience it is hard to trace the real person. They don't use their real name and they use a stolen picture also the name of the person is not real and the phone number is not real. Everything is fake and they use accounts in other people names.

Didn't know check was fake and deposit into my account. I was told it was my prize money. Now in legal trouble with bank. I'm a senior. Never was in any trouble with the law. This is terrible.

That’s exactly what happened to me ! Now my bank wants me to repay back the money. I am a victim of a SCAM. I had never done this in my entire life ! We are in a bad time with money, my husband was ill at the time and I wanted to make extra money and get ahead with our bills:( HELP .. what can I do?

Same exact thing is happening to me right now I think.

me too what do i do?

This just happened to me too. My bank had to close my current account and make a fraud claim and I more than likely will have to owe my bank money to. Like how is this fair. We were targeted and scammed!

Same thing happened to me. However, I was a member of the bank for over 23 years and they treated me like I was the criminal. I had met a guy on a dating site. He told me he worked at a security company. And that he was in a middle of a divorce and his wife had stolen money out of one of his accounts. He sent me a couple unemployment checks that he said had his name on it and he directly deposited into my bank account. I didn't find out that the checks did not have his name on them until after the fact. After the money was sent back to him. I wonder why it took the bank so long to make me aware of this. If I knew the checks were not his, I would have asked the bank to send the money back.
The bank froze my account and they kept saying I would have to pay the money back (however, it was the representatives on the phone that told me this! I never received a letter of any kind in the mail or to my account inbox.)
First, I tried to closed the account. Then, I tried to set up a payment plan. Which the representative from the Bank said it was all set up, but when I went into the bank I was unable to deposit any money whatsoever. I noticed that the bank had refunded what was left in my account to the unemployment agency. However, this happened about a month after I had my identity stolen. As I received an alert on my credit report saying someone applied for a small business loan in Washington D.C. and in Georgia. A week or so after that happened, I received two envelopes from Pennsylvania unemployment agency (I took photos of the envelopes and emailed that agency to make them aware of what was going on, I also did a return to sender).
I am not sure if all the stress from everything caused the numbness in my leg and face, however last weekend I spent that weekend in the hospital. Worst case scenarios keep entering my mind.
I have put a freeze on my credit report and a fraud alert, as well as closed all my credit cards.
Isn't there a clause somewhere that assists victims in such matters, instead of treating the victims as criminals?

Hello! My mother got caught in a fraudulent sba scam! She had a man contact her through Instagram. They talked for a long time 2years!! Then my mom was in a vulnerable situation and he offered to help by him asking her to accept a deposit for him and she could send him some snd keep the rest. She did unfortunately. It was over 70,000! She later found out that it was a fraudulent scam! She's in major trouble with the government because this money came from the Treasury Department! My mother is 71 and never been in trouble for anything! This could also affect me & my sister being me sisters name was on her bank acct & my home is in her name. I would hope and pray that they are she have victim and don't throw an elderly lady in jail or a mom who was inadvertently involved in jail and for heavens sake of hope they wouldn't put me & my kids on the street to get the money back.

This just happened to me too! I feel so stupid. They deposited checks and then had me send money to a few other people. My bank flagged my account. I have to go to the bank tomorrow. I don't know what to expect or what they will do. Out of the amount they deposited I only sent out $2,500.00. So it should be affordable to pay the bank back. I just feel so stupid. I just hope they don't prosecute me. This is crazy!! I feel so stupid.

I met a guy online and after chatting for a week. He offered me to give him my bank account so he could send me some money. I was refused at first but he tried to call me and convinced me that is ok. So I gave him my local Japan Post Bank account( not an international account). After that, he showed me some pictures of the fail transferring. I was actually relieved about that after I read this article.

I wish the poster could be sent to Libraries and Schools, that would help spread the word.

Thank you so much.

I just received a CA from someone I believe to be a scammer . He have his name and said he is from the Am. Cash Lot. Sweepstakes According to him I have won a large sum of money that will be delivered in a cashier's check He sounded foreign He also said I had won a vehicle . IHe said that ai can come to a mentioned state to pick it up or it can be shipped. I must sign an affidavit and He gave .e numbers for the winnings and the bank is well known that holds a combination to a locked case to which noone has the combination but the bank and it would be released to me once all papers are signed. He gave me the acct. # I cunningly questioned him concerning said winnings and I figured it was a scam by his answers. I have the phone # he called from and another # which I believe to be a cell# which is his real number . Also I asked him to check with ups to see how much shipping cost are to have the package shipped. He told me he would check and ca me back. He called back but we are having storms in our area at this time so I couldn't bear when he called back he called several times but stopped after about 5 times. I am contacting the FCC to check on this tosee if it is a scam. And if you want I will assist to the best of my ability to help stop the scammers. Thank you Go getum. And if this is not a scam I am one blessed person The prize was huge. Lol I am blessed anyways in that our LORD JESUS wants me to help others in any capacity that I am able People should not be scammed. Good was we have hard enough times as it is. Thank you JESUS for giving me a good mind An I have a good mind to kick oops to step on the devils head

Omay so I was looking for a job trew express employment and I got a match so I thought it wouldn't be a scam because its from a company for a personal assistant I deposited the check in to my account and then got a message saying to send the money on a gift card but I still haven't I still have the money what do i do should I call the cops he has my address

I am so upset!!! My son was looking for a job too - Baruch website and the man who contacted him said it was for a part time job - Paul Lucas, probably fake name. They sent him a check and he deposited it and then hounded him to buy a gift card - 10 phone texts. The Fed-ex came from Jim Carter and the company on the check was Newbury Disposal Company in Ventura CA. Which is a real company . He went to buy the gift card and I told him do not do anything until the check clears. Well that set off aggressive texts and I asked my son to send me the email / text account which I did and No Response. I am scared because now they have my address. I also have the email which I will post. I would like law enforcement or a special FBI force to take on these people who during a Pandemic , where people have lost their jobs and are looking to work, take advantage of kind people. These people need to be jailed.

I am in the same situation did you ever find out what to do with it?

I received a check for over **3,000 dollars. It was delivered by FedEx. I was advised to text a dude at (832)637-8851 before cashing the check. Don't be fooled because FedEx delivered it. If it seems to good to be true. It probably is.

It seems like you had fallen to some work at home offers. Some fake companies send check to wire the money so they can cheat you.

Almost sounds like what I went through..and still going through..i Did get a check for 3,500.but I didnt cash right away. I made a savings account instead.and Yes bank had a hold on it for two days..But this check said ( Cashiers Check) so I figured funds were there.Since With Cashiers Check.Money was already Secured.this was Job for Monster Energy Drink ..to advertise their logo on my car..i figured .ill get my hubby to see application and all it look legit..the bank released the funds..because they knew I was disabled and diagnosed with Cancer and needed to pay bills.
So I took cash of 3,000 out..by early morning..and I mean like 7 am.bank was at my house .screaming and knocking on door so loud..that they needed to speak to me? I thought I needed sleep @ 7 am.
They Bank literally emailed and called my cell phone like every 5 minutes.trying to get said money back..
I said it was gone.
Then the manager wanted me to come in to bank to make Loan Payments .i thought. Your kidding right? They didnt want to even try to go after the person that sent check .they wanted me to go in to bank to set up a payment plan..
I thought seriously ..why am I paying this back?
The bank released the check.( the Hold)
They cashed the check.
And why am I the one to pay it back? They didnt want any information on who the person that sent check and why..they stated they know all about the scams ..apparnetly. They do not..if I walked out of their bank with 3,000.00$
And they wanted No Information on whom I was talking of.or any Proof of it. I have been in contact with these so called scammers have basically 4 phone numbers.
Place of living ..and many hours of commucation..since one of the people that gave the check...i asked point blank ..is this to be true.and not to screw me over..he stated more than once..i would not go to jail or get screwed
Since I felt I needed to confide in this person..i was recently Diagnosed with a Rare Blood Cancer.
Maybe it was an act of kindness.i don't know.besides local bank wanted me to make a full police Report on Fraud. I did so..even told the police ..bank wants me to pay
No mercy for me..
And I should of seriously thought I was getting scammed..Well honestly I didn't get ..cash check .bwcause you need to send part of money our way in gift cards etc.
They Never asked for any of this money from me.but after 2 weeks of cashing it.it seems like I have been in turmoil..The Bank wants me to set of payments I said No..it seems no matter if I try to help find out about the scammers it does Not matter I am guilty.but I don't see it this way..the bank if they knew it was scammers..then they shouldn't of taken hold from check..and let me walked out with 3,000.00.The bank does not have the right to harass a disabled person or threathen me.which they violated my rights.
More than once..
I offered to help bank find out whom or where.
Heck even got a job with these peoples as their accountant ..
They told me what I needed. purchased. And wanted to see receipts.and actually items purchased etc.like Postal Express Envelopes White Paper .white Envelopes etc.and I needed VERISIGN 3000 checks.i thought seriously I can buy this type of check online.. Yes actually. Through Walmart and Amazon carries these checks .to have all legal bank information.Hmm what type of printer to use. Who I am Paying .where this check is going etc..they stated to open Cash app account . and. A vemo account I said why..they said this is how my employees get paid every Friday..so to protect my child & my self..i have screen shot every conversation I have had with these persons ..it seems like I have been taking to a person named Drake..
Always ask how am I feeling . emails me with whom to pay. Looks like a dummy check..and sends an address to whom.and I get paid ..to entrust my health for my Sons.
Since I stated I have a Rare Blood Cancer..i don't know if my honestly just said a different take with these peoples.or seriously what is going on here .i neded the money to take care of bills
But if these are So bad of scammers to offer a paying job.than my Own Bank harassing and telling me I will be set up with a loan to make payments ..rather than emailing every 30 mins .
It's more of my Own Personal Bank scamming me than an actual scammer. Trying to Demand of Money..than ..were sorry that your Disabled and fighting Cancer.Nope.
So I'm being harassed more of the bank than actual scammer..its not like I screwed myself my giving my account number too.so the bank can Go in to a protected account Mine..and Demand Money from me.and email me half to death.
Seriously ..i just don't know. The bank should get nailed for Personally yelling at me in my home ..and harassing every 30 mins .

Sounds like you are still dealing with these people even though you know they are scammers. Don't be desperate to pay your bills and end up in jail.

I have always been a good judgment on real and fake. So if I read a email that makes me laugh because they want to give me $2,5000.00 because they think I'm a good and need it. I copy that email and report it to as many places I can in hopes to help not 1 person get scammed. Best regards, S

On Plenty Of Fish I have had people try to do the money mule scam and also the iTunes card there could be more and I just know what it is but I do not give anybody money

What was the name of the person that you met?

I think I am being scammed too. Was anyone named Donald who was trying to scam you? He supposedly is from NC but had to go to Ukraine for business but is now stuck due to what he says is Bank regulation changes that he didn't know about before he got there. Does this sound familiar to you?

I was on twitter and saw a tweet by Bill Pulte saying if you retweet this I will give you $10,000. So I retweet it and right away he DM and ask me questions. If I need help or have any bills. I said yes I have credit card. He said he was willing to pay off my credit card and still give me the $10,000. So he give me an bank account number and said once I finish paying off all my credit cards DM him back and he’ll give me a call. Without thinking because he give me a bank account I use it to pay off a couple of credit cards. Then I dm said I was done. So he had supposeably his assistant call me saying the $10,000 check will be overnighted you me. Later his assistant call saying they need $1,200 from to to process paper work and it’s tax Fredi said I have no money. Then they said can you cash app $200 so they can send the check ASAP. So I cash app him $200 now they saying the ck is delayed. I was a bit scared and sound fishy. So I said no. I don’t want it no more. So then they said well we already paid your credit card. So I call my credit card company they said the payment was posted but the bank hasn’t made the payment. And since it came from a different bank than my usual bank I usually make payments. They said it would take a couple of days. Anyways I told that to those people. They kept insisting on me to make another $600 payment to handle this and get it over with. I told them no. Now they trying to threat me with FBI because of the payment they made on my credit card which came out to total of $2200. But even though the payment is posted. I keep checking if the available credit is ready to use. It’s not yet. And my credit card company said the only way the payment can be cancel if the bank will cancel. Those this sound like a scam. I am scared now and don’t know who to talk too. If they threaten to bring FBI I will call the cops. Because I never ask them to pay anything they offered. Someone please help.

almost a "money mule" but ftc saved me! tks ftc

Unfortunately I became a perfect example of the consequences of not doing my research on receiving a check in the mail from FedEx and instructions on what to do for secret shopper. well not knowing that it was a scam I took it to a check cashing and they said that they had to call the number on the on the check to make sure that it was legit well I wanted to make sure it was legit as well so I gave all the information I had as well as the instructions to the cashier and she made all these phone calls and the next thing I know a cop comes in and arrested me says that I was trying to pass a fake check I had no idea it was fake I thought this was part of the secret shopper company so they arrested me and I was in booking for about 10 hours and then they finally decided to site me out and now I have to go to court for this please if anybody ever receives a check in the mail and it's it's quite a bit and you aren't expecting it don't cash it call the cops turn it in be safe because now I have to face charges of trying to cash a fake check at a check cashing the sad part about it is I've done business with this check cashing company for over 15 years never have I ever ever brought them something like this and how they had me arrested. Ive been there for 15 years doing business with them. I was even working with them to see if this is legit. I had no idea if be arrested. So example of what to do if you get a check in the mail out the blue. Don't fall for it.

Just got a $2480 just want me to purchase $2000 worth of gift cards then take the $480 as payment...no no i won't do that no i won't do that...

I was sent money and figured out that they wanted me to do something illegal and they wanted me to transfer the money to bitcoin and send it to them. Now I have their money in my account and don’t know what to do.

Did you ever find out what to do? I'm curious. The person who sent the money said gift on transfer but still makes me nervous

I met a man in a dating site.He offered me a job as a accounts payable secretary. He told me to open a personal checking account. I did because I thought it was permanent secretary job. He said he would deposit money every week so that I could pay the company bills. Then he had 30000
dollars deposited into personal checking account . I went online and found out it was from the state of Illinois. I wasn’t sure what was going on. But kinda suspected something was wrong. But I completed his instructions and fedx the money to a woman in Florida. The next day he told me to open a business checking account. He named the business and gave me the information I needed to open the account. I did it . When I went To the Bank to withdraw the money I found that it was 114000 from sbad 310. This is grant money for businesses that are suffering because of the pandemic. I cut all communication with them because I figured out that this was a scam. He told me that the money was coming from his business, McKenzie cattle and land .
Now I have 114000 dollars sitting in a business banking account. I don’t know how to give it back sbad. The last text I got from him was tonight. He said “your going to be late with in 48 hours trust me. “I googled what that meant and it led me to this site. Please help me. I’m scared because they threatening me and my son life if I don’t turn the money into bitcoins and send it to there external wallet. I’m not going to do that. The guy that pretended to be interested in me and now he said that he was going to turn me into the feds if I didn’t send the money. So I contacted the feds. They were no help. Now I moved because they have my home address. They texted it to me and said they were coming to my house. I jump at every noise I hear. I’m scared. 114000 is a lot of money and scared they will come after me for it.
Please if anyone can tell me what to do. I need the help.

I’m having the same problem. A $27,100 problem!

Was this person named christopher

I too got a $2480.00 check. I called the bank to see if it was real. She said "No, the routing number isn't ours". She said to call police and file a report then fax a copy of the check to them.
I never did get instructions from the scammers. Just a check sent via priority over night mail. A detective is calling me today.

Just learned that I was scammed. I was dealing with someone that said they would pay me to have a Burger King decal put on my vehicle. He told me that I would get a check from them for almost $2700 and I get to keep $500, the rest would go to the installer of the decal. I went to deposit the check and my bank called me. They told me that it's a scam and I would end up with a negative balance and I would also get in trouble because I was involved with depositing a fake check and moving money around for the scammers.
I am so disgusted with these heartless people who do this to those of us that need money right now. It's pathetic!
So, be warned that there are scumbags out there who do not care about what they are doing to others during this pandemic.

I met a guy on social media. We talked for a few months. He started asking me for money and it kept going up. Promise to payback. Asked for me to buy him a suit, cellphone, and other things. Did not do. I did fall victim would ask me to send bitcoins and send money wire transfer. It was a mess dont do it. Almost got caught up lost money did not get back. Will not happen again. I have been a victim of overpayment and credit card fraud.

This guy didn't ask me for my bank details but he asked me to login to his bank account to help transfer his money to a money changer in Cyprus because he said that he is being quarantined and there is VPN restriction. Does this consider a scam too? When processing, he also receive authentication code and he sent it to me.

Hi Linn,

Did you ever confirm if this is a scam? Was it authentic?

I just had a guy that I've been talking to ask me to do the same. I am pretty sure it is a scam. of course I politely declined.

We have been scammed out of millions, property, and such devastating circumstances. No one would help us. We have had a hard time getting anything because of these scammers trying to hustle me. We have suffered health and heart problems.

I fell victim to this scam for about a week & was receiving wire transfers & Zelle transfers from a scammer. I was very naive & thought it was legit at 1st & then knew it was to good to be true. What kina of legal trouble could be coming to me in the future?

Same thing happened to me only I only did it one day. Im nervous about what legal trouble I could get into. Any updates on what happened to you?

Any updates on what happened? Did you file a complaint? Im in the same position.

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