With the U.S. unemployment rate soaring and large numbers of people being secluded at home, fraudsters are increasingly targeting individuals through “work from home” opportunities, dating websites or online personal sales to use as money mules. Criminals who obtain money illegally need to find a way to move and hide the illicit funds. They frequently scam other people, known as money mules, into moving this illicit money for them. These money mules are asked to receive funds in their personal bank account and then “process” or “transfer” funds via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service businesses, such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use one’s bank account or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes the mule’s financial security and compromises their personally identifiable information, but is also a crime. Over the last several years, the FBI has dedicated significant resources to educating the public on common red flags that they may be acting as a money mule and has continued to reinforce this messaging to address the rise of COVID-19-related money mule schemes. The FBI encourages individuals to protect themselves by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which they are not personally or professionally responsible, and to watch out for online job postings and emails from individuals promising easy money for little to no effort.