Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Scam to Move Stolen Money

Green and orange header image reading "Are you a 'Money Mule' Avoid becoming the victim of a scam to move stolen money". A graphic of a navy blue mule with a money bag emblem. On the right side is the Disability & Aging Crime Victims Unit logo that has a graphic of the scales of justice. Beneath is a icon with a cursor emblem that reads "Learn More".

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Financial fraud is among the fastest growing types of abuse, and older individuals and those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. Those age 65+ are more than 30% more likely to lose money to financial fraud compared to younger individuals (via OVC). 

That said, scammers are very good at what they do and they do not discriminate. They will target anyone and everyone. "Money Mule" scams are one of the most common scams we have clients call us about. We are sharing this information to empower you with knowledge to avoid being scammed and to know what to do if you are victimized. If you can spot a scam you can stop a scam!

There are many types of scams that may require different steps to protect yourself. For individualized support, please contact DRC and ask to complete an intake with one of our advocates. We may be able to help you come up with a recovery plan and provide you with the resources you need to take your next steps. 

Are you a "Money Mule"?

If someone sends you money and then asks you to send money to someone else, STOP! You could be a "Money Mule". 

What is a Money Mule?

Scammers look for people to help them move stolen money.

The scammers are on:

  • Online Dating Sites
  • Job Search Sites
  • Social Media Sites

The scammers create fake stories, and make up reasons to send you money, usually by check or Bitcoin. Then they tell you to send that money to someone else by using gift cards or wire transfers. (via consumer.ftc.gov)

Examples of Money Mule Scams

  • Work From Home Scam - You receive a job posting via email or social media message.  It says “easy money” in exchange for reshipping packages, buying gift cards or postal money orders.  This is a FAKE job offer.  “Give me your bank information so a deposit can be made to your account.” Victims are moving stolen money. 
  • Lottery Scam - You receive a call/email that you have a prize waiting for you.  All you need to do to collect your winnings is to pay for fees and taxes.”  Ex. Publisher’s Clearinghouse. You may receive money via mail to send to someone else or be asked to deposit the money in your bank account/send your debit card. 

  • Romance ScamYou meet a person online (ex. Craig’s List). They tell you they are romantically interested in you. After building trust, they ask you to receive money and send money to someone.

  • Grandparent Scam - You are contacted by a person claiming to be your grandchild (They have gained information about your family from social media). The person claims to be in a crisis situation (hospitalized, stuck in foreign country) and asks you to send money immediately, provides details how (wire transfer, gift card) and asks you to keep it a secret.

  • Cryptocurrency ScamSomeone offers to invest your money in cryptocurrency. This person claims to be a celebrity or professional investor and may guarantee big returns on such investments.

  • Recovery ScamsBe aware of future re-victimization. Unfortunately, once someone has fallen victim to a scam, they can be vulnerable to future scams. Such scams are referred to as “recovery scams,” and they claim they can help you recover the money you lost in a scam, so long as you pay upfront fees to help with the recovery process. These scammers may claim to be lawyers, government officials, or other types of advocates. Be wary of anyone who guarantees they can get your money back and never pay upfront fees to recover your lost funds.

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Money Mule Scam

Tip #1: Never use your own bank account or open a bank account in your name to transfer money for an employer.

Tip #2: Never pay to collect a prize or transfer money out of your “winnings”. Tell the person “I don’t do business over the phone.” and hang up.

Tip #3: Never send money to an online love interest, even if they have sent a check to you first.

Tip #4: Never answer the phone from an unknown number. If you do by mistake, hang up. Its ok.

Tip #5: Never open a cryptocurrency wallet in another’s name or give your cryptocurrency wallet information to someone you met online or over the phone.

Tip #6: Be wary of anyone who says you have to pay by cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or gift card. This is a huge red flag that the person may be scamming you.

I have been the victim of a Money Mule scam. Now what do I do?

People are often embarrassed or ashamed to admit that they have given money to a scammer. We are sharing this information to let you know that you are not alone in this experience. The cost of fraud is not just the financial cost. Victims of fraud can also experience anxiety and severe stress. Scammers are very good at what they do, and millions of people in the United States report being victimized every year.

If you have reason to believe that you have been the victim of a Money Mule scam, or other type of scam, the number one thing to do is to act quickly. If you paid a scammer, it is very difficult to recover money lost to scams. The more time that passes, the more difficult it can become to recover the money a scammer has taken from you. While there is no guarantee that you can recover the money a scammer has taken from you, taking the following steps may help protect you and others from scams in the future:

  • Report the scam. Scams can be reported to your local police department, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once you report a scam on the FTC website, the FTC will provide you with a list of steps you can take to protect yourself. Keep a copy of your reports or your report number with the police department and the FTC.
  • Notify the proper companies that you have been victimized by a scam and you need the fraudulent transaction reversed. Make this notification in writing so that you have a copy for your records. Send the written notification to the organization’s legal department, fraud department, and customer service department.
    • - If you paid with a credit card, debit card, check, or bank transfer, notify your bank or credit card company.
    • - If you paid with a gift card, notify the gift card’s issuing company.
    • - If you sent a wire transfer, notify the wire transfer company or the bank you used to wire the money.
    • - If sent money through a money transfer app, notify the company running the app.
    • - If you paid with cryptocurrency, notify the company you used to send the money.
    • - If you sent cash through the U.S. mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 and ask if they can intercept the package.
    • - If you sent cash through another delivery service, contact the company and ask if they can intercept the package.
  • Notify the major credit reporting agencies that you have been the victim of a scam. The three major agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Ask these agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent someone from opening credit accounts in your name.
  • Contact the Kansas Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. for credit counseling. If you are unable to recover your stolen funds and you find yourself in debt or credit problems, Kansas Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. (HCCI) may be able to help you take steps to resolve these issues. Contact HCCI at 800-383-0217 or on their website at https://housingandcredit.org/

There are many types of scams that may require different steps to protect yourself. Remember we are here to help! Contact us for individualized support. 

This grant project is supported by subgrant number 22-VOCA-56 awarded through the Federal Office for Victims of Crime as administered by the Kansas Governor’s Grants Program. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication, program, or exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of the Kansas Governor or the U.S. Department of Justice.

Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Scam to Move Stolen Money