Picture this scenario: cybercriminals have done the dirty deed. They’ve managed to breach the internet security of unsuspecting web users and “phish” their credit card details. Having open access to their bank accounts, they conveniently transfer large sums of money to their accounts. You might think that this is the end of it. No more criminal activity involving innocent, law-abiding citizens will be conducted in this chain of criminal events. You would be wrong! There’s still a good chance you could end up an important link in part 2 of this internet security scam: the money laundering process. Cybercriminals may yet recruit you to finish the crime they started on the black market.
Money laundering via money mules
Stolen money is “dirty money” that needs to be “cleaned up” (laundered) in order to be used on legal markets. This is where other victims come in. Oblivious web users may be lured into accepting dirty money into their accounts and transferring it to a criminal one overseas. And so they become money mules. This way, cybercriminals make sure there’s no trace of them and that the money mules get blamed for the theft. It’s a simple philosophy: the more intermediaries in the criminal chain, the more difficult to track down the real criminals. The people most often targeted are traditionally vulnerable groups: unemployed, migrant workers and university students who may be tempted by the chance to make some easy money.
How do you become a money mule?
After breaking into people’s bank accounts and stealing their money, cybercrooks start recruiting money mules to wrap up the fraud. They usually advertise a seemingly legit, “easy-money” job via internet chat rooms, job search websites, online newspapers and even via spam e-mails. Once they start spreading the news about the “cool” job, your internet security is compromised. Why? Because the job ad is so well crafted that you’re prone to fall for it and apply.
How does a money mule job ad look like?
It usually promotes a fake position of sales representative/manager, financial manager or shipping manager. It only requires you to have a bank account and internet connection to make online transactions. Benefits stated: working from home, an attractive % of the “monthly turnover”, 2-4 working hours/day. Put it simply: easy money, in large sums. At the cost of compromised internet security!
E-mails describing such jobs are even more convincing. Cybercrooks make them look as coming from legit companies, stating the company name and a person of contact to add authenticity to the scam. They may ask you to act as a local company representative in order for the company to avoid high payment charges or local taxes.
What happens after you accept the job?
Say you’ve fallen for the internet security scam and you’ve unknowingly accepted the money mule job. Next you’ll:
- Receive stolen funds into your account
- Forward the funds to overseas accounts – keeping to yourself a nice percent of the sum – typically via wire transfer service
- Be tracked down by the police. In the real world!
- Have your bank account frozen and become a suspect in a police investigation issued by the person who had their bank account breached and their money stolen in the initial internet security scam. Acting as a money mule is illegal and some money mules face years of imprisonment.
Thus, in a money mule scam, not only your internet security is compromised, but your physical security also.
Tips on how to avoid becoming a money mule:
- Be wary of any unsolicited job opportunities offering easy money, especially if they come from companies operating from overseas and require you to use your own bank account for company transactions. Find out more about the respective company and check if its contact details are valid.
- Read the job offers carefully – money mule scams may be written in poor English with grammar and spelling mistakes, or urge you not to inform your bank of the transactions.
- Never give your bank account details to anyone, unless it’s someone you know and trust.
- Get an effective Spamfilter to sort out all those spam e-mails or a complete internet security suite that includes a Spamfilter.
You can either go for a stand-alone product, like BullGuard Spamfilter or a comprehensive suite like BullGuard Internet Security that comes with a spamfilter, an antiphishing tool that protects you from phishing scams, and a large number of other internet security features for comprehensive online protection.