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Money mules: Fake jobs lead to crime

Research shows that people are alarmingly unaware that fake job recruitment scams can lead to them getting involved in money laundering.


Money muling begins when fraudsters recruit innocent people to transfer stolen money overseas using their own bank accounts. This money has often been stolen via phishing scams. The fraudsters tend to be located overseas and because cross-border transfers can’t be made from UK online bank accounts, a mule is required to receive the stolen money into their account. They are then asked to send the money overseas using a wire transfer service, keeping some for themselves.

Fraudsters often recruit their money mules by pretending to offer legitimate jobs via emails, particularly targeting vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and students, who may be attracted by a seemingly easy way to make extra money.

East London muling hotspot

Industry data shows that nearly half of all mule accounts identified in Greater London were located in East London; and 70% of those were based in Newham. To highlight this growing problem, Financial Fraud Action UK and the National Fraud Authority (NFA) – which runs Action Fraud - are launching a joint awareness campaign, focused on the London borough of Newham.

A survey of residents in Newham found that:

  • 93% of residents do not know what a money mule is, despite the fact that nearly a quarter of residents have either been targeted to be a mule, or know someone else who has
  • among those actually approached, men are more likely than women to be targeted to become a mule (60% versus 40%), as are those aged 18-34 years compared to people aged 55+ (54% versus 15%)
  • a worrying 27% of people who have been approached to become a money mule did not know that becoming a money mule was illegal and that it carries a prison sentence of up to ten years
  • email is the criminal's favourite method of communication for this scam (62% of approaches are made this way)
  • most mule approaches (80%) are made by strangers
  • men and those aged 18-34 were the most tempted to become a mule
  • only half (57%) of the people surveyed would definitely be suspicious if they were overpaid for easy work and just under half would not be put off by a job advert containing spelling or grammatical mistakes
  • 13% of people wouldn't bother to research a potential employer before taking a job or handing over their bank account details
  • more than 60% of the people polled did not know that you could get a prison sentence, or other punishment, for becoming a mule
  • 86% of people approached to become a money mule have failed to report it.

Reduce your chances of becoming a money muling victim:

  • be very cautious of unsolicited job offers or opportunities to make easy money
  • be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate
  • verify any company which makes you a job offer and check their contact details (address, phone number, email address and website) are correct and whether they are registered in the UK
  • be suspicious of job adverts that are written in poor English, with grammatical and spelling mistakes
  • never give your bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them.

Read more about the money muling campaign on Financial Fraud Action UK’s website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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