Most South Africans are open to the idea of making a few extra bucks, whether it’s a side hustle, part-time job, or middle man. But have you ever been tempted to make a bit of extra cash as a money mule? As it turns out, money mules have been a real thing in South Africa for quite some time, and while some avoid criminal “extra money” routes like the plague, there are those who allow desperation and hard times to prime them for becoming a money mule.
What is a money mule?
What is a money mule? Money mules are ordinary people, just like you and me, except they’ve been lured into the criminal underworld with the promise of financial gain. As a money mule, you’re involved in transferring or moving money (that’s been illegally acquired) on behalf of another person.
The recruitment office for money mules is nothing like the upmarket office buildings you’d visit in Johannesburg searching for a corporate job. Instead, the internet, messenger services, and dodgy alleys are used to spread the word. The head honcho is a criminal with a heart set on turning people into mules to launder their takings from the likes of online scams, fraudulent behaviour, and downright criminal activity. What sort of criminal activity? Oh, just drug and human trafficking! So, if you’re thinking about becoming a money mule for a bit of extra cash, think about whose life could be ruined in the process.
Money mules are the perfect distraction for criminals. They provide layers between the crime victims and the criminals and make it extremely hard for law enforcement to trace the money and the criminal behind the whole plan.
Money mules in banking – banking money mule scam
Let’s talk about money mules in banking. How is it done? How does the “mule” actually launder the money? While the intricacies aren’t exactly made 100% public, it’s safe to say that the mules are moving money for their criminal bosses through bank accounts, virtual currency, prepaid debit cards, and money service businesses.
How does a mule make money off a money mule scam?
You might be wondering what’s it in it for the money mule – it seems like a lot of risk and stress! It’s true. Money mules receive a commission for their service. In some instances, it’s not even about the money. There are many cases where people become money mule victims and end up assisting someone they are in a romantic relationship with or a beloved family member.
Money muling in South Africa on the streets
Many people hear the term “money mule” and say, “Nah, not in South Africa!” But as it turns out, the laundering of money through mules in SA has become so prevalent that the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) created a new category of fraud. Money mule fraud is a real thing right here in SA!
For the most part, people are approached on South African streets and offered quick payments to use their bank account. Of course, any South African who agrees to do this is complicit in a crime.
Money muling in South Africa online
While many people are recruited on the street to be money mules in South Africa, there’s still a great deal of recruitment happening online. There are three popular routes criminals take to lure in money mule victims.
- Fraudulent employment advertisements
With this scam, criminals post fake job adverts on employment and classified advert sites. In the advert, individuals are offered a way to earn quick cash. Of course, when they learn more, it’s not really a job at all. The job is to receive a certain amount of money into their bank account. Then, they must transfer some of it to another account while keeping some of the money for themselves.
- Random emails
With this online approach, the criminal sends out emails to multiple email addresses in hopes of getting a “hook.” The email offers a quick commission in return for using the person’s bank account to receive money. Once the money is received, a portion of it is sent on to the criminal.
- Romance scam
This has been a popular money mule scam for quite some time. Vulnerable singles are the main target. They are asked to receive some money into their account and then transfer it to a third party with the promise of a relationship at stake.
How might any of these scams catch you online? If you’re using chat rooms, on social media, or trawling the web for a job or a relationship, you’re at risk.
What is a mule account?
Here’s something to be aware of when it comes to money mules in banking! Criminals offer money to money mules to open new bank accounts. Banks can be sticky nowadays about who they give bank accounts to, and of course, criminals don’t want a money trail attached to their name and accounts. When the money mule victim opens the account, the criminal has money transferred to it. It works much like all the other money laundering scams where the mule keeps a portion of the money before transferring it out.
There have been several occurrences in South Africa where consumers have purchased goods online only never to receive the goods.
Criminals prefer to send their money mules to open accounts at banks that have a fast account opening process.
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