These money mule scams often start as online dating relationships, online loan applications, online job applications for personal assistant or other work-at-home type jobs, car wrapping, secret shoppers, or even prizes. Here is an example of how the scam works. The scammer will send money to you and then ask you to send most of it out to someone else on their behalf. The transfer out request usually includes methods such as gift cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency such as BitCoin, or even sending cash through the mail.
The scammers often demand immediate action before you have time to think about what they have asked you to do. They will not tell you the money is stolen. Unfortunately, you will soon realize there never was a relationship, job, or prize - only a scam that could get you into legal trouble for helping move stolen money. Criminals are good at manipulating innocent people to help them. The money they send you may be from the other person they scammed, and you may be helping criminals hurt people just like yourself.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of a money mule scam:
- Never agree to move money for someone, even if they promise a relationship, job, or prize.
- Do not share your personal or banking information with anyone.
- Do not pay out your own money to make money.
- Block unwanted calls or texts.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately and talk to someone you trust about the request.
If you think you might be involved in a scam, stop transferring money and block all contact with the scammer. Notify your financial institution, the wire transfer service, or any other companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.