The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service are warning of an increase in money mule schemes in Middle and West Tennessee.
According to an FBI news release, the Memphis and Nashville field office are warning potential victims to avoid falling prey to this specific type of financial crime.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a money mule scheme is a method that some scammers use to move stolen money through an oftentimes unsuspecting third party.
Money mule scams happen several ways and often involve online dating, work-at-home jobs or prizes where a scammer will send money to a victim and ask the victim to then transfer some of that money to another person, thereby compromising the victim's once secure financial accounts.
Falling victim to such a scam could result in the victim owing money to a financial institution, having their financial accounts compromised or could even be in legal trouble for moving stolen money.
The FBI reported that the following signs could mean that someone may be acting as a money mule.
- You receive an unsolicited email or contact over social media promising easy money for little to no effort.
- The “employer" you communicate with uses web-based email (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or Outlook).
- You are asked to open up a bank account in your own name or in the name of a company you form to receive and transfer money.
- As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then “process funds” or “transfer funds” via a wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
- You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
- Your duties have no specific job description.
- Your online companion, whom you have never met in person, asks you to conduct financial transactions that they should reasonably be able to do for themselves, and offers to share the proceeds of that transaction with you.
- Your online companion is adamant that you keep the relationship and the associated financial transactions secret.
The FBI has also provided the following tips for people to protect themselves.
- Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
- Be wary when an employer asks you to form a company to open up a new bank account.
- Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.
- Be wary when job advertisements are poorly written with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
- Be suspicious when the individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
- Perform online searches to check the information from any solicitation emails and contacts.
- Ask the employer, “Can you send a copy of the license/permit to conduct business in my county or state?”
- Utilize the privacy settings on your social media, and be selective about the information you make public.
- If you are unsure whether or not you are being used as a money mule and you are uncomfortable talking to law enforcement, consult with your local bank branch.
According to the FBI, anyone who may have been solicited by scammers should not respond to them or click any links that are sent to them. The are also encouraged to call their local police department, FBI or TBI office, or the U.S. Secret Service.
Anyone who believes that they are participating in a money mule scheme is advised by the FBI to stop transferring money immediately and to notify their bank, the service they used to conduct the transaction and law enforcement.
To report suspicious activity, visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.