WASHINGTON – As this week is National Consumer Protection Week, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is warning the public about the dangers of being a money mule. Money mules are people who receive and transfer money obtained from victims of fraud. Some money mules know they have been recruited to assist criminal activity, but others become money mules without realizing their activity is benefiting fraudsters.
These criminal elements usually use several methods to recruit victims:
• Work-from-Home Scams: A job posting offers easy money for reshipping packages, buying gift cards or Postal Money Orders, or transferring money, which can be done at home.
• Confidence Scams: A person or business you don’t know offers you a cut/commission if you transfer money for them. Many of these scammers are active on social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram.
• Lottery Scams: A person informs you that you need to transfer or accept money in order to collect a prize/winnings.
• Romance Scams: A person you’ve met online or on an app, who says they’re romantically interested in you asks you to transfer money and/or packages.
Transferring money/valuables on behalf of others only benefits criminals, and may lead to serious consequences for the money mule.
What can the public do to protect themselves from becoming a money mule? The Postal Inspection Service offers these tips:
• Don’t engage in financial transactions with strangers. This includes transferring money into and out of accounts you own or purchasing Postal Money Orders, gift cards, or virtual currency at the direction of others. Never give your personal information, such as your Social Security or bank account number to someone else.
• Don’t take a job that promises easy money and involves sending or receiving money or packages. While the allure of working from home can be tempting, remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And, never accept or send packages on behalf of others.
• Check it out. Check any work-from-home opportunity or money transferring offer with a trusted family member or friend. You can also contact your Better Business Bureau chapter or access your state corporation directory to help verify if the business is legitimate.
• Report it. It’s important to report money mule activity/scams as soon as possible. Contact the Postal Inspection Service (www.uspis.gov/report; (877) 876-2455. Also, report any suspected Money Mule email or social media scams to the platform provider.
“People may not be aware they are engaging in money mule activity, and that’s why it’s vitally important the public learn what being a money mule is and how to stop it,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “The Postal Inspection Service is working hard every day to fight this scourge, and we ask everyone to join us and help those who are involved in money mule activity to quit.”
For more information on money mule scams, visit www.uspis.gov/money-mule.