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Tips to Avoid a Money Mule Scam

  • Highlights

  • Money mules are innocent people who are duped by fraudsters into laundering stolen illegal money/funds

  • Victims are led to believe that they are being presented with authentic and genuine offer – employment, romantic relationships, or award winnings

The first obvious question that comes to one’s mind is what/who is a money mule since this term is not commonly heard. A money mule is a person who is conned into transferring funds and laundering money that has been illegally acquired on someone else’s behalf. These scams take place in multiple ways related to job offers, online dating, or prizes. The idea is to send money to the victim out of which they get some part of the money and have to transfer the rest of the amount to someone else.

How do money mule scams work?

A scammer impersonates authentic employees of companies on the pretext of offering them a job or claiming they are the winners of a prize and at times even starting a romantic relationship with the targeted. 
No matter the story used to build a relationship, the next thing they ask you is to receive money in your personal account and transfer some of that amount to an unknown account. You will be advised to use gift cards or wire the money. One may feel that this is a great deal as they actually receive the money in their account first, but what they don’t know is that the money is stolen or unlawful. The scammers use a series of meticulously crafted lies to make you an accomplice in the scam. 
This means the fraudster is using you as a “money mule” and even if you unknowingly move money, it could cause legal trouble.

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Unknowing or Uninformed – These individuals are innocent and don’t know that they are part of a scam. They are solicited via job offers or online dating sites and they actually end up trusting the people who ask them to transfer the money.
Witting mules – These people overlook red alerts and obvious signs. They probably started off as unsuspecting individuals but then continued to be part of the scam due to easy financial gains.
Complicit individuals – These people know what they are up to and choose to actively participate. They are financially motivated and also recruit people to carry out their scams.

Indicators of a Money Mule Scam

  • Receiving unsolicited emails or direct messages that promise easy money with minimal effort

  • Getting a job offer that lists no responsibilities and doesn’t have a clear job description

  • The supposed employer communicates using Hotmail, Gmail, and other such web-based services rather than a dedicated company domain name such as @bajajfinserv.in

  • Poor grammar and incorrectly framed sentences in the communication

  • No personal face to face interviews or any physical interaction – either with the love interest or the supposed employer

  • Significant earning promise for a negligible effort from your end

  • Being asked to set up a personal bank account for receiving and transferring money

  • Getting befriended by someone online who you have never met physically, who asks you to first receive money and then forward a part of it to unknown individuals

How to Avoid a Money Mule Scam?

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The easiest way to avoid money mule scams is by not interacting with unknown people online. Do not accept any job offer that requires money or package transfers to supposed clients. Investigate the company and email ID from where the communication is being initiated. For instance, if you have been offered a position by Bajaj Finserv, check the portal https://www.bajajfinserv.in/career-opportunities to confirm the same or drop an email to the HR department. Follow similar checks for others as well.
Avoid conducting any monetary transactions for online romantic interest. Similarly, do not accept any award money that requires a portion of it to be transferred elsewhere.
Always use secure financial platforms for money transfers. These days, credit cards, banks, and other financial service providers offer fraud protection.

If you fall prey to a money mule scam, reach out to the national helpline portal at https://cybercrime.gov.in/ or call the helpline number 14440.
Remember it is better to be safe, than sorry.

Savdhaan Rahein. Safe Rahein.

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