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If You're A Money Mule You're a Fool

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don't be tricked into doing someone else's dirty work

There are multiple ways to be scammed online these days, many of them causing you to become the unwilling victim of fraud, where you are lured into giving personal details to criminals only to have your personal bank funds stolen. 

But there are other ways ways to be scammed.  Not into becoming a victim, but rather into becoming a critical member of a criminal network where you (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not) partake in moving money for criminals (often the money of afore mentioned scam victims).

The term ‘mule’ refers to someone who moves something for someone else, generally illegally. The most common type of mule is someone who moves drugs or money on someone else’s behalf. Sometimes a mule will be aware that they are partaking in something illegal, other times they don't know the full implications, and some people are completely oblivious to being used in this way. A money mule is someone who moves the proceeds of crime, launders money, or allows their bank, credit union or building society account to be used for the purposes of money laundering.

Often people involved in this kind of activity will have a pretty good idea that it’s not above board, especially if they are receiving payment for their part in the process. Some people may get paid say 10% of the lump sum they have been asked to send overseas. Generally after a few interactions with the contacts from these organisations, those doing the leg work (transfering money on behalf of criminals) will figure out that what they're doing is wrong. However many people continue the work as they are receiving payment and in need of the money, or are perhaps being blackmailed to continue. Sometimes criminals will threaten their mules that they will report them to the police if they stop working for them. Other people can get caught up in illegal activities without even knowing at the time that they did anything wrong, but by giving their personal details to a criminal on the other side of the world they may have committed a criminal offence. These people also run the risk of having their entire financial identity compromised. Personal details such as tax file number, name, address, and date of birth is all information which should be protected and never shared with strangers online.

Money muling is essentially an advanced version of fraudulent work from home or get rich quick schemes. The biggest danger (and attraction) of money muling that the participants usually receive a form of payment for their involvement and so therefore are also liable to be prosecuted for their involvement in money laundering activities, even if they don’t know the ins and outs of the criminal network or why or what they are laundering. 

Some key things to look out for: 

  • Being told by the ‘company’ that payments can only be made by direct deposit and having to provide your personal bank account details.
  • The ‘business' doesn’t have an official email address, but rather operates from a hotmail, yahoo or gmail address.
  • Spelling and grammatical errors are usually a big red flag, but not all scams are obvious due to this.
  • Money mule jobs will often be advertised on job sites in order to look legitimate, so be mindful when applying for jobs online.

If you ever find yourself caught up in one of these schemes report it immediately. Tell your financial institution, so they can contact the Australian Federal Police. NEVER give your account number away or accept the funds in the first place. And never allow anyone to use your bank account. If you've received the funds, tell your financial institution and they will send the money back. If you are suspicious early on before any details have been exchanged or transactions made ignore any approaches and don't fall for the bait in the first place. It might seem like an attractive deal, but essentially you are being recruited for criminal activity and eventually the rewards will not be worth the legal implications.

How to protect yourself from being recruited: 

  • If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Be very careful of giving away your personal information, especially to via email or via online forms.
  • Be especially careful giving away your tax file number, only trusted financial institutions or the ATO website should ever need it.
  • Genuine employers will ask you to complete your TFN on a proper form which is lodged with the ATO, never give this out online
  • Ensure your computer has virus protection software, and run a scan on your computer once a week.
  • Clear your web browser history/cache at least once a fortnight.

You can educated yourself further about how to avoid all types of scams via MoneySmart.

Endeavour Mutual Bank has employed a wide range of security measures to help protect your personal information and transactions. Measures such as data encryption, firewalls, automatic timeouts, free SMS alerts and SMS one time verification code security technology all help to protect you and your money. When you bank with Endeavour, you can be assured that your banking is safeguarded and protected.  However it's important to keep in mind technological protection cannot protect you if you are careless with your personal information. You need to play your part in protecting your information responsibly and in accordance with the Endeavour Mutual Bank terms and conditions.

Find out more about Endeavour’s Guarantee to its members and commitment to security here.

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.