Many people lost jobs in 2020 and are still seeking ways to replace that income. So, when they receive an unsolicited email offering them a few hundred dollars to perform a few simple banking tasks, they are eager to jump on the offers.
Others may establish online connections with “friends” whom they have never met. The circumstances are usually due to distance. Often, these new online contacts claim to be serving in the armed forces and are deployed to distant outposts. They say they reached out because they are lonely, and they connect with other lonely folks here in Virginia. They may text and chat online with you every day. Their new “friends” may suddenly get in a jam and need someone to make a series of money transfers to others who can help them out.
Be careful — you have just fallen for an online scam
The details vary, but each shares common elements, including:
- You never actually meet your new “boss,” “friend” or “love interest” face-to-face
- You will eventually be asked to participate in some scheme involving buying gift cards, transferring and accepting funds, opening bank accounts or giving access to banking details
- You get recruited out of the blue for a job that seems too good to be true
You should be very wary because you could be accused of criminal activity as a money mule.
What is a money mule?
In real life, mules are beasts of burden — and that is just what you become if you fall for these scams. You are burdened with the task of laundering dirty money through your own or others’ bank accounts for a criminal organization.
The money could stem from sex trafficking women and children or from sales of illegal drugs. Once you run those funds through a legitimate account, it is figuratively “washed” and can be thrust back into more criminal activities, including terrorist actions against civilians or the U.S. military.
Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law
Whether you knew what was going on or not, prosecutors can allege that you should have known and charge you with several felonies. If you get caught up in a similar nightmare of criminal activity, you will need to launch a robust defense to the charges you face.