two people handing each other money

25 Apr 2023

Avoiding money muling

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What is money muling and how does it happen?

Money muling is a technique used by fraudsters to launder money. A money mule is a person who’s been offered cash by someone to use their personal account to transfer money to other accounts on their behalf.

The money involved in muling is often stolen or generated through crimes such as cybercrime, drug trading, human trafficking and even terrorism. It’s common for money mules to be recruited via social media, email or direct messaging. Criminals will get in contact with a victim asking them to help with money transfers in return for payment.

women in front of laptop looking at phone

Money mules are also recruited through seemingly legitimate online job adverts that offer applicants ‘quick cash’. They may even be recruited in person, on the street.

Fraudsters will often use a number of mules to transfer money through multiple accounts to make it harder for banks, financial providers and the authorities to track them down. The reason fraudsters use mules, rather than doing the dirty work themselves, is to remain anonymous so that any consequences will fall on the mule.

Money mules are often recruited without realising that they’re part of a larger scheme and are committing a crime.

What happens if a money mule is caught?

As money mules receive a cut of the money being transferred, they’re directly involved in money laundering. This is a serious criminal offence and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment in the UK. Mules may also be held liable for repaying the money lost by victims.

If you’re caught acting as a money mule, your Skrill account will be closed and you may not be able to open a new one in the future. Having an account closed damages your credit and financial standing, making it difficult to apply for things like loans, utilities and phone contracts.

judge with hammer

Signs you’re being targeted

Financially vulnerable individuals such as young people, students, newcomers to the country or those experiencing money worries are the most common targets for money mule recruiters, but anyone can fall victim.

Common tactics used by money mule recruiters include:

two people handing over money
  •  Web pop-ups or social media job adverts promising quick and easy money
  • Unsolicited emails or social media messages asking for friendship or a romantic relationship
  • Offering money to use your account to make transfers to people you don’t know
  • Pretending to be an “employer” over text message or email, and asking you to receive funds into your personal account before transferring them to another account
  • Asking you to open an account in your name to receive and transfer money on someone’s behalf

What to do if you spot signs of money muling

  • Report any accounts and profiles you think are advertising for money mules to the platform provider
  • Inform the police if you receive any emails or messages asking you to open a new account or use your account to receive and transfer money for someone else
  • If you’re based in the UK, you can also report suspected money mule schemes to Action Fraud UK, or to the cybercrime unit of your national police force if you’re based outside of the UK
  • If you receive an in-person offer to become a money mule, decline it and report it to the police straight away
  • If you think you’ve been caught up in a money mule scheme using your Skrill account, stop transferring money immediately and file a report through your account or contact us.
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