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If you’ve been on the Internet, you would have seen many terrible stories of people losing money to scams. Now, criminal organisations have even resorted to using mule accounts, or a money mule, to make illegal money transactions.


So, what’s a money mule? It’s when a person allows someone else to use their bank accounts to receive and transfer illegal funds.


This sinister money mule scam is a global problem which affects all financial service providers. These mule accounts are often linked to large-scale crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking.

How do Scammer Use a Mule Account for Money Laundering

Criminal syndicates tend to recruit money mules through lucrative job opportunities, promising fast and easy cash. You will be asked to open a mule account, which hides the criminals’ identities and helps them cover the money trail.


Even without money mules setting up mule accounts, criminals may also use stolen identities to transfer illegal money.


Here’s how they may launder money from one account to another:


  1. A money mule is recruited.
  2. The money mule opens a bank account.
  3. Funds are transferred into the mule account.
  4. Criminals instruct how and when the money should be moved to another account.
  5. The money mule then transfers the fund to a third party account or make cash withdrawals.

Don't Fall into the Traps of Scammers! Be Aware of these Warning Signs

Have you ever received an unprompted job offer through SMS? That could be a smishing (SMS phishing) attempt to recruit you as a money mule.


Scammers favour targeting vulnerable groups desperate for jobs or urgent money with seemingly legitimate offers through a variety of ways:


  • Social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, etc.)
  • Instant messages (e.g. WhatsApp or SMS)
  • Requests for account rental
  • Fake job adverts


What’s more, these scammers often go to great lengths to mask their illegal operations as legitimate companies. Don’t be fooled, and look out for these red flags and signs:


  • Job offers that are too good to be true
  • You are asked to open a new bank account in your name or on behalf of the company
  • You are tasked with receiving funds into your bank account and transferring the funds
  • Your job responsibilities and tasks are unspecified
  • You can keep a cut of money transferred
  • Education or experience is not required

How to Protect Yourself

With the increasing popularity and adoption of digital transactions and online services, fraudsters are finding new ways to lure and exploit victims.


You can never be too vigilant when it comes to keeping your money safe from fraud and money laundering schemes.


No matter how careful you are, any one of us can be a victim of identity theft. Thus, it’s important to exercise caution against any suspicious opportunities or requests.


Tips to avoid you getting caught off guard:


  • Be cautious if your employer asks you to open a new bank account and hand over your personal ATM/debit card
  • Do not accept requests to transfer money using your personal bank account
  • Ignore job offers that promise easy money with little effort
  • Secure your bank cards and do not disclose your login credentials
  • Do not comply with requests to change the linked phone number to provide access to money mules
  • Do not share/surrender bank cards or TAC to a third party including family members and close friends

The Lasting Consequences of Being a Money Mule


It is illegal to be a money mule – unwittingly or willingly – as you could face serious repercussions, including prosecution, fines and possible incarceration.


If you’re a mule account holder, you will be considered an accessory and accomplice to the crime, even if you are not directly involved.


Money mules can also be charged for fraudulently concealing monies under Section 424 of the Penal Code, and for owning stolen goods under Section 29(1) of the Minor Offences Act 1955.


Additionally, banks and financial institutions may also blacklist mule account owners and prevent them from opening a new account*.

Don't Wait, Take Immediate Action


Think you may be involved in a money mule scam? If you spot suspicious activities, here’s what you can do:


  • Report the fraud to the bank and your local law enforcement agency
  • If in-person, decline the offer and make a police report
  • Notify your bank to change or close your bank account
  • If you think you’re in the midst of a money mule scheme, stop transferring money and immediately notify your bank/payment provider and the police


Remember, criminal organisations tend to target inexperienced young adults or the elderly and prey on their need for money. That is why it’s essential to spread the news and stay alert to thwart fraud attempts.


To lessen the chance of becoming a scam victim, beware of suspicious messages and emails. Always be alert to the latest criminal tactics. Visit CIMB’s website to learn more about how you and your finances can be protected from scams.  


This article is for informational purposes only and CIMB does not make any representation and warranty as to the accuracy, completeness and fairness of any information contained in this article. As this article is general in nature, it is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. You are advised to consult a financial advisor or investment professional before making any decisions based on the information contained in this article. CIMB assumes no liability for any consequences arising from your reliance on the information presented here.