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What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone who receives and moves money that came from victims of fraud. Some money mules know they are assisting with criminal activity, but others are unaware that their actions are helping fraudsters.

If someone you don’t know sends you money and asks you to forward or transfer the money, you could be fueling fraud by serving as a money mule. Money mules may be recruited through an online job ad or social media post that promises easy money for little effort. Or money mules may agree to help a love interest they’ve met online or over the phone receive and send money ─ also known as a romance scam.

Look for these red flags

Follow these tips to avoid becoming a money mule:

  • Don’t agree to receive or send money or packages for people you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
  • Don’t take a job that promises easy money – especially if it involves sending or receiving money or packages.
  • Don’t open a bank account or cryptocurrency account at someone else’s direction.
  • Don’t send money to an online love interest, even if they send you money first.
  • Don’t pay to collect a prize or send someone money out of your “winnings.”

What to do if you think you may be involved in a money mule scam

Transferring money on behalf of others not only benefits criminals, but it could also lead to serious consequences for you – like losing money or even being put in jail. If you think you’ve been involved in a money mule scam, here’s what to do:

  1. Stop communicating with anyone who asked you to move money or property.
  2. Tell your financial institution and consider changing accounts.
  3. Also take these important steps right away.

Money mules help international crime networks steal money from businesses and people just like you. It is important to stay alert and watch out for the red flags of a money mule scam.

For more information, please visit the Department of Justice’s Money Mule Initiative web page .

Learn more about how to protect yourself and others from fraud and scams.