Top Maine Law Enforcement Officials Caution Residents About Becoming “Money Mules”
Schemers Using Online Relationships to Illegally Transfer Funds Overseas; Problem Escalating During Pandemic
PORTLAND, Maine: U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank and Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey are warning consumers about scammers recruiting “money mules.”
According to the FBI, a money mule is someone who transfers illegally acquired money at the direction of another. Criminals recruit consumers to receive money and then physically or electronically move it through their own bank accounts, or to assist with moving money in other ways. Some of the schemes include instructions to wire the money into a third-party bank account, “cash out” the money via several cashier’s checks, convert the money into a virtual currency or prepaid debit card, send the money via a money service business, or conduct a combination of these actions. The basic purpose of the scheme is to add layers to a money trail from a victim to a criminal actor.
Criminals frequently recruit “money mules” through online job or dating websites, social networking sites, online classifieds, email spam and dark web forums. A frequent tactic involves befriending people online, often even establishing online romances, with the parties never meeting one another in person.
Oftentimes, the potential “money mule” is told the person they are “helping” is unable for some reason to access a bank account. Mainers should always be extremely suspicious of these types of stories, particularly from someone they don’t know.
The “money mule” scam has escalated in Maine since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, more than 300 Maine residents have become “money mules” during the pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Frank said, “It’s critical for Mainers to be wary of any unsolicited offer of friendship or money, either online or on the phone. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve never met, or have tried to help someone who says they are a service member trapped overseas, you could be helping a criminal launder money and not even know it.”
Maine Attorney General Frey said, “When in doubt, we urge Mainers to take steps to determine if a message they have received is legitimate. We are frequently contacted by individuals who suspect they may have been victimized by someone seeking to take advantage of them, and we are here to help.”
Attorney General Frey noted that the Office of the Attorney General has a Consumer Protection Division, which can be reached at (800) 436-2131 or at Consumer.Mediation@maine.gov.
If you think that you have been victimized by a money mule scam, please call your local police or the U.S. Attorney’s Office immediately.
More information on these fraudulent schemes is available on the following websites:
- FBI Money Mule Public Service Announcement: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/090203.aspx
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/money_mules.pdf
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