(also money muling)
The practice of using a third party (a “mule”) to move funds out of a compromised account. The term “muling” comes from smuggling operations, where mules were individuals responsible for moving prohibited goods across borders.
In money muling, the mule is paid a commission to either transfer the money to the criminals’ account or give it to them in cash after withdrawing it from an ATM. Often, the mules themselves are not aware that they are aiding criminals, and may in fact be victims of employment or romance scams. Money muling makes it more difficult to determine who the real scammer is and consequently recover the money. It is therefore treated as a form of money laundering.,
Real muling examples
- Immigrants: Criminals may target new arrivals looking for work with fake job ads, promising a generous fee for helping them move money. In most cases, the immigrant is not even aware that they are participating in a criminal enterprise.
- Minors: Criminals sometimes use children and teenagers still in school as mules, capitalizing on their lack of awareness. In many cases, the victim is approached online and asked to help their supposed “friend” move money across borders.
- Romance fraud victims: After entering into a fake relationship with the victim, the criminal may ask the latter to help transfer funds between the former’s accounts. In reality, the victim has just become a mule for the criminal.