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Avoid Scams: Don’t Be a Money Mule

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To avoid being detected by law enforcement, criminals use money laundering techniques to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illicitly obtained funds. Criminals often prey on unsuspecting victims by creating elaborate stories and false identities to gain the victims’ trust by, for example, pretending to be an entrepreneur or a bachelor looking for romance. In reality, the criminals’ ultimate intention is to use these victims as “money mules.” Money mules are individuals who are recruited by criminals and, knowingly or unwittingly, transfer illegally obtained money using bank accounts, wire transfers, money orders, checks, or cryptocurrency. Money laundering is a crime, and so is being a money mule. There are a few things you should know about common methods used by criminals to recruit money mules.

Red Flags - Employment

  • You receive an offer to make money quickly and with little effort.
  • You are asked to register a company and a business bank account.
  • Your duties are limited to opening accounts and receiving and sending money.
  • You are asked to receive wires and / or withdraw cash and purchase cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin.
  • You are asked to open cryptocurrency accounts and to link your bank account to those accounts.
  •  Your alleged employment offer and other communications are poorly written and include spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Your alleged employer does not want to provide you with a copy of a business permit upon request.
  • Your alleged employer refuses to show their face on camera during video communications.

Red Flags - Romance

  • You meet an individual on an online dating or social media platform.
  • Your romantic partner claims to be stationed overseas as a member of the U.S. military, reside in another state, or live abroad due to personal reasons or visa issues.
  • Your romantic partner claims to be unable to open a bank account and asks to use your account to transfer money.
  • Your romantic partner asks you to receive wires and / or withdraw cash and purchase cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin.
  • You buy a plane ticket for your romantic partner to visit you, but he or she doesn’t arrive because immigration or personal issues prevent him or her from traveling.
  • Your romantic partner urgently needs to transfer money because of an unexpected emergency.
  • Your romantic partner’s alleged friend contacts you on behalf of your romantic partner to ask for money because of an unexpected emergency.

How to Protect Yourself



  • Never share your bank account or other personally identifiable information (PII) with others.

  • Never open a joint account with anyone other than close family.

  • Never respond to an offer to earn quick and easy money.

  • Never agree to receive and send money on behalf of others. 


If you suspect you were approached or recruited to become a money mule, contact your local Secret Service field office.