With Valentine’s Day just over a week away, ‘money mule’ scams have come into focus.
Romance Scams are most often to start online using a dating site, app or Facebook. After establishing a relationship, the scammer starts asking for money, favors or help with moving money somehow. Before you know it, the victim is moving large quantities of money for their online love without thinking twice about it. It is likely that the fraudster will stop reaching out when the victim catches on or starts asking questions.
In order to be harder to detect, fraudsters use “money mules” to illegally move stolen money. Money mules are often unsuspecting romance fraud victims who may end up in serious legal trouble for their involvement in money movement.
How do Money Mules help fraudsters?
-Moving Drugs- many romance scam victims have been imprisoned due to their involvement in moving drugs.
-Business Email Compromise Fraud- Romance scam victims are likely to help move money from fraudsters involved in business fraud emails such as the CEO fraud scam currently happening.
-Fake Checks- These scams involve money mules being sent fraudulent or stolen checks, cashing them, then wiring them to their “love” overseas. Money mules are often given an elaborate story to why there are so many steps to sending them money.
-Credit Card Reshippers- Stolen credit cards are easy to get on the dark web. Because online sellers are cautious about sending product overseas, money mules are used to receive goods charged to stolen cards and forward them along to the fraudster.
In 2019, the Better Business Bureau received 210 Scam Tracker reports related to romance fraud.
In 2018, 20-30% of romance victims were used as a money mule.
Don’t rush into an online relationship. Talk to family and friends about your dating choices. They can be the voice of reason when emotions are involved.
Analyze dating profiles. Look for repeated phrases and misspellings or misuse of words. Do an internet search of their name and profile picture to make sure they’re legit.
If someone asks you to open a bank account, gives you access to an existing bank account, asks you to pick up or transfer funds or wants to keep your relationship a secret, you should assess the situation to make sure you are not being used as a mule.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be a money mule, you should reach out to the FBI or U.S Postal Inspectors to provide them with information about your situation.
Press release provided by Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific