Welcome back to another round of MABS Investigates – this time, we’re looking at Money Mules. There has been a lot of talk about money mules lately, so with students preparing to go to college in September we want to dispel the myths. We look at what a money mule is, how you could be targeted and how to keep your money safe.
Be sure to check out our Student series, where we’re looking at tips on getting organised before you start college and what to consider, tips for settling in, and how to avoid scams such as money muling (that’s this blog!).
What is a money mule?
By definition, a money mule is a person who transfers or moves illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else. Criminals recruit money mules – people just like you – to help launder proceeds from online scams and frauds. They do this through clever coercion techniques to convince you that you’ll make a legitimate quick buck or disguise the task as a job opportunity that you couldn’t possibly turn down. Beware of these scams, as you could find yourself out of pocket very quickly and in trouble with the law.
Top Tip – An important test technique is to stop, step back from the situation and ask yourself if it seems to be good to be true, then it probably is.
A money mule unintentionally creates layers of distance between crime victims and criminals, which makes it harder for the Gardaí to accurately trace money trails. It’s important to know that even though you might be scammed too, you will unwittingly be involved in a criminal act.
Criminals use money mules to move funds in various ways, such as:
- Bank accounts
- Cashier’s cheques
- Virtual currency
- Prepaid debit cards
- Money service businesses
Currently, in Ireland, one money mule on average is being arrested every day by fraud squad detectives investigating multiple different money laundering targets. These mules are involved in highly organised ‘smishing’ or ‘vishing’ scams. Let’s delve into these types of scams in a little more detail.
‘Smishing’ or ‘Vishing’ scams – am I a target?
‘Smishing’ or ‘MS phishing’, is a criminal activity where text messages are used to try to defraud people, typically with links to bogus, cloned websites.
‘Vishing’ (a combination of the words Voice & Phishing) is a phone scam where fraudsters target you by phone and try to trick you into providing personal, financial or security information or into making a financial transfer to them.
Top Tip – If you receive an email or text message asking for details and claiming to be from your bank or a company where you have an account, don’t respond! Instead, call the company directly, or log on to your account to make sure that there is no suspicious activity.
Last year, both Bank of Ireland and AIB customers were targeted by fraudsters who managed to insert their criminal texts into legitimate text conversations between the banks and their customers. Once the criminal has entered a pre-existing text chat, the fraudulent text will ask the customer to click on a link, usually by claiming their card or account has been frozen or that there is some other type of problem that needs quick attention.
The customer’s account is then compromised, and the fraudster can then empty the account.
Remember – never share personal information data with callers or texters claiming to be your bank, the Gardaí, or a service provider, such as your telephone company or internet provider! For more information & tips on how to avoid being the victim of ‘smishing’ or ‘vishing’, visit FraudSmart.ie.
How do money mules affect me?
Unfortunately, students are one of the prime targets for recruiting money mules! And this is why it’s so important for you to be aware of what to look out for, to protect your money. Often the fraudsters use students’ bank account details by offering you a fee to allow the use of your account for a few days.
Let’s look at a recent example – a young male was arrested in the Tallaght area, who was suspected of holding money in a bank account for an international organised crime gang involved in laundering. Over €10 million of fraudulent money through Irish bank accounts! €10 million euro?! And that’s only one example!
Fact – 98% of money mule incidents in Ireland in 2020 involved bank accounts belonging to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age!
How do I keep my money safe?
There are several ways you can avoid being the victim of money mules’ scams. Which include:
- Never give out any personal information to a caller or texter, until you have confirmation that they’re a genuine representative of the organisation they’re claiming to be calling from.
Top tip – if you receive a call, tell the caller you will phone them back & search for the number of the organisation they’re claiming to be calling from. Contact the organisation directly to confirm, they will welcome your need to validate!
- Fraudsters can already have basic information about you (name, address, or date of birth). Never assume a caller is genuine because they have these details.
- If you think you have answered a ‘vishing’ call or responded to a ‘smishing’ text message & provided your bank details, contact your bank immediately!
For more information on money mules or student fraud, visit fraudsmart.ie. Remember – anyone (especially students!) can be the target of financial fraud and scams and at any time. Your best defence is to stay informed, alert, and secure! As the old saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”.
Do you have some tips on how to be aware of and stay safe from these scams? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #MABSStudentCents. We’d love to hear your ideas.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Student Series for tips on getting organised for college and tips for settling into college life.
Disclaimer: This blog does not represent legal advice and is intended for guidance only. If you are concerned about your current or future personal financial situation then please contact an adviser from MABS. Advisers are available by phone and email.
You can call the MABS National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or find the contact details for your local office.
Follow @MABSinfo on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram for further updates.