During the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment fraud has increased dramatically
and has cost the federal government billions of dollars. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of the Inspector General recently put out information on their new Money Mule Awareness campaign to protect and guide individuals on this fraud technique used to steal money.
A money mule is a person used to move funds for criminals and help them scam businesses, individuals and the government out of money. Mules use a variety of methods to get this stolen money to these criminals such as business email compromise, romance scams, lottery scams, and unemployment fraud. These fraud schemes often involve the use of a victim’s stolen identity.
“With more than 30,000 people on Guam jobless due to the public health emergency, it’s become easier for scam artists to suck people into these crime rings that pose a high threat to individuals being used as money mules, but are low risk for the criminal,” said Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola. “Using a money mule puts an extra layer between the thieves and the government and makes it more difficult to catch them. Many people become money mules unknowingly, but some are willing participants. Either way there are serious consequences to aiding criminals obtain illicit funds. We have identified some possible claims using money mules. The Guam Department of Labor will continue to work with federal and local law enforcement to prevent, detect and prosecute fraud. ”
Consequences include jail time, fines, civil and administrative actions, negative impact on credit reports, loss of banking privileges, and misuse of the mule’s own personal identity information.
In unemployment fraud, money mules are typically asked to open new bank accounts or use their own to collect unemployment benefits attained with stolen identities. After the benefits are deposited, the mule is then told to transfer the funds to other accounts and ultimately get the money to the criminals.
Mules earn income by keeping a small portion of the money they move.
It’s important to protect yourself from being tricked into committing fraud. Stay alert and be aware of the warning signs to avoid becoming a part of these crime rings.
Criminal recruiters attract mules in a variety of ways, such as job and dating websites, social networking platforms, online classifieds, email solicitation, and dark web forums.
You may be targeted to be a mule if:
• You receive unsolicited emails or contact on social media that promises “easy” money.
• A prospective “employer” communicates with you through web-based internet services, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or “throw away” email services.
• You are asked to open a personal bank account to receive and transfer money on behalf of the “employer” or someone else.
• You are allowed or told to keep “a cut” or percentage of money you move via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or other money service.
• Your job duties have no description and are limited to moving money.
• Your online acquaintance, whom you have not met, asks you to move money to individuals who you do not know.
If you suspect you are being used as a money mule or see suspicious activity report it to the Office of the Inspector General online at https://www.oig.dol.gov/hotline.htm, or by calling (202) 693-6999 or (800) 347-3756.
(GDOL News Release)