A public service announcement from the FBI.

What is a Money Mule?
Any individual who transfers funds, on behalf of, or at the direction of another. Money mules are recruited to assist criminals with laundering proceeds from illegal activity and are often promised easy money for their participation in moving funds by various methods, including:
• Cryptocurrency
• Physical currency (cash)
• Bank transfers (wires, ACH, EFT)
• Money services businesses
• Pre-paid cards

Ways Money Mules are recruited
• Unsolicited emails or other communications requesting to open a bank account, cryptocurrency wallet or business in their name
• Romance/confidence scams
• Employment scams promising easy money
• Non-payment/non-delivery scams
• Lottery scams where personal information is collected

Who is at risk?
Anyone can be recruited to be a money mule; however, targeted populations include the elderly, college-aged students and newly immigrated individuals. Cyber-expertise or knowledge is not required; the money mule will be directed how to open accounts and process various transactions.

Recent trends
In 2020 into 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received an increase in complaints relating to COVID-19 fraud and online scams involving cryptocurrency, such as business email compromises, extortion, employment scams and confidence/ romance scams.

The increases in these scams could be the result of isolation due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, the loss of employment due to COVID-19, and increases in remote work, which allowed criminals to instruct money mules to provide copies of their personal information online.

Money mules were also asked to provide copies of their personal information or to directly open cryptocurrency accounts and wallets as part of online scams such as romance fraud, extortion, nonpayment/non-delivery or investment scams. These accounts, opened in the money mule’s name, could then be later used in other scams to target victims of business email compromises, tech support and other online scams.

Tips for protection
If you believe you are being used as a money mule:
• STOP communicating with the suspected criminal
• STOP transferring funds or items of value
• Maintain receipts, contact information and communications (emails, text messages, voicemails) so the information may be passed to law enforcement
• Notify your bank or payment provider
• Notify Law Enforcement. Report suspicious activity to the IC3 at www.ic3.gov and contact your local FBI field office

To prevent yourself from being recruited as a money mule:
• Do not accept job offers that ask you to receive company funds into your personal account or ask you to open a business bank account
• Be suspicious if a romantic partner asks you to receive or transfer funds from your account
• Do not provide your financial details to anyone (e.g., bank account information, logins, passwords)
• Do not provide copies of your identification documents to anyone (e.g., driver’s license, social security number)
• Conduct online searches to corroborate any information provided to you
• Reach out to your financial institution with banking questions or concerns about financial transactions in your account

We live in a world where we need to be extra cautious when entering a real estate transaction. These types of scams happen all the time and it is important to stay educated!

by Jill Bright, Chicago Title Insurance Agency