Posted by: Jack Henry | August 28, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Money Mules

Good morning!

As we prepare for our annual Symitar Education Conference, I have the honor of editing a slide show full of innovative solutions our credit union clients have come up with to make their lives easier. Today I came across a term that is several years old, but I can’t say I’d ever heard of it and it made me laugh. The term for today is money mule. (You’ll have to come to the Creative Solutions SEC session to find out what it does and who designed it.)

Money mules, also called smurfs, are people who help transfer money acquired illegally. Who came up with these terms? I don’t know. That’s for another day.

Here’s a broad picture of what happens a lot of the time and how people are often duped into being mules.

Someone posts an advertisement online or via some phishing attempt to get the soon-to-be mule’s attention (often it looks like a job offer).

Sometimes, the mule is asked to transfer money in exchange for a percentage of the transfer amount (thus hiding the thief’s identity and location). Using legal banks and services, the mule “allows the thief to transform a reversible and traceable transaction into an irreversible and untraceable one.” (Wikipedia)

Other times, the mule is given a check to deposit into his or her account (again, in exchange for a percentage of the total amount), then the mule transfers the money to the thief, and by the time the check bounces, the thief is gone and the mule is stuck without the money and with the incurred fees.

Whether or not the money mule is aware of what he or she is doing, it is definitely illegal.

Here is what to watch out for, as part of my anti-fraud customer service (thanks to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team:

Warning signs of mule recruitment:

· The position involves transferring money or goods.

· The specific job duties are not described.

· The company is located in another country.

· The position does not list education or experience requirements. All interactions and transactions will be done online.

· The offer promises significant earning potential for little effort.

· The writing is awkward and includes poor sentence structure.

· The email address associated with the offer uses a Web-based service (Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live, Hotmail, etc.) instead of an organization-based domain.

Don’t be a money mule!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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