Recruiters of money mules are coming up with get-rich-quick online social media advertisements to lure in young people, say the authorities. This year, cases involving romance scams were reported on the rise, with criminals increasingly recruiting money mules on online dating sites, grooming their victims over time to convince them to open bank accounts under the guise of sending or receiving funds, according to the European Union policing agency Europol.
A fifth European Money Mule Action (EMMA 5) ran between September and November 2019, resulting in the identification of 3833 money mules alongside 386 money mule recruiters, of which 228 were arrested. 1025 criminal investigations were open, many of them are still ongoing. More than 650 banks, 17 bank associations and other financial institutions helped to report 7520 fraudulent money mule transactions. Europol says that it supported national authorities from 31 countries including the UK with cross-checks against Europol’s databases and intelligence gathering.
Police say that even if money mules act unwittingly, they are committing a crime. Police will turn first to whoever’s name features on the bank account. Meanwhile in the USA, law enforcement likewise disrupted mule networks that spanned from Hawaii to Florida and from Alaska to Maine. Some 600 domestic money mules were halted, topping a similar effort against about 400 mules last year, the federal authorities said.
The United States Attorney General William P Barr said: “Protecting our senior citizens from criminals who target them is one of the Trump Administration’s highest priorities. Money mules –wittingly and unwittingly – supply the lifeblood of transnational elder fraud schemes. This landmark initiative has significantly impaired certain ways criminals steal from its elderly victims. The Department of Justice and its federal, state, and international partners are committed to shutting down these despicable enterprises that exploit the most vulnerable in our society.”
And Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale of the US Postal Inspection Service said: “Deceptive solicitations take advantage of the American public with promises of easy money, when in reality, the scammers are the only ones making money. Postal Inspectors are working hard to protect the American public and ensure their confidence in the US mail.”