Criminal organizations often rely on money laundering to conceal the origin of their illicit funds. The aim is to make funds appear legitimate and at the same time distance criminal groups from prosecution. This action also makes it difficult for law enforcement to trace money trails.
Money mules are people who knowingly or, in certain cases, unknowingly help criminal organizations launder their illicit profits. They do this by providing their own accounts to help receive and transfer fraudulent funds, thereby "legitimizing" it.
To highlight this threat, INTERPOL launched its #YourAccountYourCrime campaign. This two-week campaign (10-26 August 2022) raised awareness of money mules and provided tips on how to stay safe.
How are money mules recruited?
Criminals recruit money mules in various ways. For example, some individuals are lured with the promise of financial gain or they receive a commission for their service. In other cases, they are motivated by trust or are solicited via online scams. Others provide support because they believe they have a romantic relationship with the individual who is asking for help.
The #YourAccountYourCrime campaign focused on four key ways criminal organizations recruit money mules:
Job scams: you are contacted about a new job without having applied to any position and where the “employer” doesn’t provide any details about their company;
Romance scams: you are contacted online via social media or a dating platform;
Investment scams: you receive a message to make big returns on an investment relatively easily;
Impersonation scams: calls or messages from individuals pretending to be from courier companies or government agencies asking you for your personal/bank details.
Tips to help you avoid becoming a victim
- Be suspicious of anyone who wants to use your bank account to receive and forward money.
- Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.
- If you suspect you’ve been used as a money mule, cease all communications and report it to your bank and the authorities.
What are the implications?
The #YourAccountYourCrime campaign highlighted the fact that you may face prosecution by acting as a money mule. “If you use your account, it could also become your crime!”
This means that you may still be found complicit as part of a money-laundering scheme even if you weren’t aware of how your bank account was being used.
Project TORAID – fighting transnational financial crime in Southeast Asia
This awareness campaign comes under Project TORAID. The overall goal of the TORAID initiative is to strengthen global safety and financial security within Southeast Asia. Amongst key activities, this project supports member countries in identifying and investigating illicit financial flows.