Don't be a donkey (or a mule)
18 September 2023 | by Alex Cuff
This blog post was accurate when we published it - visit kroo.com or your Kroo app for the most up to date information
Heard of ‘money muling’? It's a type of money laundering that often targets individuals with little cash, particularly students.
So, what are the signs to look out for, and what can you do if it happens to you?
Money muling 101
Fraudsters need a go-between to launder money because transferring it into their account would lead the police straight to their door. The fraudster can keep themselves at arm's length by using a third-party bank account, recruited from witting or unwitting ‘money mules'.
Often, money mules are young people with little cash – students are a common target. They hand over their account details in exchange for a small financial reward. Alternatively, fraudsters might try the sympathy vote by claiming they’re desperate and need your help.
It can seem innocent enough, but if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Money mule: Someone who lets criminals use their bank account for transferring money. Sometimes, the money mule isn’t aware of what’s happening and has been tricked into this activity because of an offer of payment or reward.
Mule herder: A mule herder hires money mules. A mule herder may approach you online or even in person.
How does money muling work?
It takes work to dupe individuals into becoming mules. Mule herders set up fake social media profiles and advertise easy ways to make fast money. Liking the post is often the first step. The herder will try to lure you in with manipulative language, creating a sense of urgency and pressure. Once agreed, the herder will transfer money to the mule and ask them to pass the funds on or withdraw them to give to someone else.
Is it a crime to be a money mule?
Yes, it's a crime, even if you didn't realise you were doing it. Being caught as a money mule can result in imprisonment for up to 14 years.
How to protect yourself from a mule herder
- Stay vigilant and research all job offers. Stick to well-known job vacancy sites and avoid jobs only advertised on social media.
- Don’t accept money into your bank account if you don’t know where it originated.
- Don’t share your bank or log in details with somebody you don’t know.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Is there anything else I should know?
UK Finance and Cifas have started a partnership called ‘Don’t be fooled’ to raise awareness and support for students and young people to avoid being tricked into being a money mule. For more information and support, visit their website.
If you feel you or a relative has been tricked into money muling, stop speaking to the herder, block their account, report them and contact Action Fraud.
What should I do?
- If you or someone you know might have been approached, break off all contact with the individual and don't receive or move any money.
- Report it by calling Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, via their website or contact 0300 123 2040. In an emergency, call 999.
- Contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline quoting ref: IFMM23. You do not have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.
- If you see it online, click the button to report it to the social media companies to get it taken down.
- If you think someone you know is already involved, go to the Action Fraud website for advice.