Don't fall for money mule scam

16 November 2009

Income seekers are being targeted with ‘too good to be true’ money-making opportunities and fake jobs that could see them tricked into laundering money for criminals.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) says it has serious concerns that people using the internet to find paid employment could fall victim to these sophisticated scams, and unknowingly end up as money mules laundering money made through illegal activity.

Adverts for fake jobs are springing up all over the web, even on legitimate channels such as mainstream recruitment websites, according to, the UK’s national internet security initiative.

The aim of these ads is to mislead people into thinking they have a genuine job that will offer substantial earnings for relatively little work. In fact, people who fall for these offers could up being tagged as criminals, having their bank accounts frozen and the laundered funds recovered from their personal accounts money.

Job titles to watch out for include ‘financial manager’, ‘money transfer agent’, ‘shipping manager’ or even ‘mystery shopper’. It is estimated that there are around 100 known mule recruitment sites targeting UK surfers, each of which may have around 50 ‘money mules’.
Some criminal gangs are also targeting new victims by sending out unsolicited emails with job offers.

“Criminals are reliant on mule operations to receive and forward money taken from online banking fraud - some money mules know exactly what they are doing, however, many end up unwittingly laundering profits for overseas criminals as a result of being taken in by fake recruitment sites,” warns Sharon Lemon, deputy director of e-Crime at SOCA. 
Around a third of people looking for jobs online use legitimate, mainstream employment websites. However, with these being increasingly hijacked by scammers, there are concerns that many innocent people could fall foul – and end up criminals themselves.

Tony Neate, managing director of, says: “Fraudsters go to great lengths to convince potential mules that they are applying for a genuine job - some even issue official-looking ‘employment contracts’ for their ‘employees’ to sign.”
He adds: “With many people looking for ways to earn money during a recession, it’s critical that people learn to spot the warning signs to avoid becoming a victim.”

How to spot a scam
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Look out for jobs that offer big rewards for very little effort or experience.
People should be especially wary of offers from people or companies overseas, as it is harder to verify if they are who they say they are.
If you see an ad that catches your eye, then before you do anything you must carry out some research on the company in question. Check their postal address and phone number are correct, as well as any given email address and website.
Never give your bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
If you think you may be a victim of one of these scams, contact your bank immediately.


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