Even if some “money mules" don’t realise they are committing a crime, Europol warns that they are still considered a criminal accomplice
The agency has revealed that people may be targeted by criminals to move illegal funds through their own bank accounts.
A money mule is someone who receives money from a third party into their bank account and transfers it to another or takes it out in cash to give to someone else.
Even if some “money mules" don’t realise they are committing a crime, Europol warns that they are still considered a criminal accomplice.
Between September and November, Europol identified 8,755 money mules and arrested 2,469.
With the help of authorities from 26 countries including Ireland, €17.5 million was intercepted and over 4000 fraudulent transactions discovered.
Europol has now launched a campaign to warn people of the dangers of money mule recruiters and how to avoid getting tangled up in money laundering.
Money mules get ‘commission’ and although they may not be involved in the cybercrimes, scams or frauds that ‘made’ the money, they are considered accomplices for laundering the proceeds of crime.
More than 90 pc of these transactions are linked to cybercrime like phishing, malware attacks, e-commerce fraud, romance scams or holiday fraud.
Europol have now urged people to be cautious of money mule recruiters.
"Have you ever been asked to help transfer money by an online friend or love interest? Someone offering a way to make easy money? Someone claiming to need help as they can’t use their own bank account?” a Europol spokesperson said.
"If yes, you may have been talking to a money mule recruiter - and if you did what they asked, you may have committed a crime.”
The most likely targets, Europol warns, are people under 35 years old though criminal groups have recently begun recruiting young people aged 12 to 21 to launder cash.
Most often, they look at newcomers to a country, unemployed people, students and people who might be in economic hardship.
Europol added: “Do you think you might be used as a mule?
"Act now before it is too late: stop transferring money and notify your bank and your national police immediately.”
Fake job offers that advertise ‘easy money’ are one of the ways money mule recruiters suck people in.
Europol warns that although the illegal money comes and goes through your bank account, the responsibility still rests on you.
They say to never give bank details to people you don’t know or trust, to stay cautious of unsolicited emails or offers and to never click the links inside these messages.
The European Money Mule Action (EMMA8) is a joint operation between authorities in Ireland and 24 other countries across the globe.