Published 4 months ago
It seems like every other day, we hear terrible news about unfortunate people getting their hard-earned money swindled away.
Scammers are always inventing new ways to steal money. All too often, they succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re least expecting it. They create believable stories that convince you to hand over your personal details and money.
One of the latest tactics that scammers are using are money mules. Last year, 29,769 bank accounts in Malaysia were found to be mule accounts.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know to avoid becoming a money mule.
What is a mule account?
Scammers are experts at concealing the origins of their illegal assets. In order to move their dirty money around undetected, they use mule accounts — bank accounts that do not belong to the scammer but the scammer has access to it to receive and transfer stolen money while keeping their identity hidden.
What is a money mule?
A money mule is a person who moves illegal money for someone else through their mule account, whether unknowingly or knowingly as a partner in crime.
The ideal money mule is someone who is unconnected to the scammer, as this creates distance between the criminal and law enforcement, making it more difficult to trace money trails.
This is why money mule victims can be anyone, as scammers will often prey on financially or emotionally vulnerable people. Most are offered money for their ‘help’ and are paid a ‘commission’ for it. Some are convinced into believing they are helping out their family or romantic partners. In rare cases, some are even blackmailed into becoming mules.
4 Examples of money mule scams
Bank account rental requests
The most obvious way that scammers use to find money mules are bank account rentals. ALL bank account rentals are scams so if you see one, run.
An ad for one could look like ‘Earn easy money! Make RM1000 a day for bank account rental!’
They only want to use your identity to hide theirs and funnel their dirty money.
Job offers that are too good to be true
Have you ever received an unprompted job offer through SMS or social media? Or maybe you’ve seen job advertisements that sound too good to be true, like “Earn RM1000 per day working from home!”
This could be a scammer’s attempt to recruit you as a money mule, as they will get you to hand over your banking details for ‘salary processing’.
Friends and family
If your loved one called you in distress and asked for help, it’s understandable that you’d be worried and want to help them. This is the exact reason why scammers often pretend to be your loved ones to prey on your emotional vulnerability.
Sometimes, scammers go so far as to imitate the voice of your loved one. No matter how close you are to someone, NEVER give your personal banking details to anyone. Even your family.
Scammers disguised as a loan shark may ask you for your bank account details to ‘check on your money in the bank’.
They will then use your account to launder their illegal money.
This is a scam. Don’t fall for it!
What happens to mule account holders?
Unwittingly or willingly as a partner in crime, it’s illegal to be a money mule.
In Malaysia, you’ll face serious repercussions, including prosecution, fines, blacklisting, and possible incarceration.
Mule account holders can be charged under Section 424 of the Penal Code for fraudulently concealing monies and for owning stolen goods under Section 29(1) of the Minor Offences Act 1955. This carries a sentence of imprisonment up to five years, or a fine, or both upon conviction even if such mule account holder is not directly involved in whatever their “renter” does.
What to do if you think your account is compromised?
Think you’ve been approached by a mule account scammer? Here’s what you can do:
Report the fraud to your bank immediately
Report the scam to the National Scam Response Centre NSRC at 997 immediately
Lodge a police report
Consider closing or freezing your account immediately
Do not help anyone to receive or transfer funds from/to any third party
Stay alert! Do not accept any offer that sounds too good to be true and guarantees fast returns
Educate yourself on the latest scam tactics
NEVER share your personal banking details and OTP. Not even with your bank!
When making a report to your bank, the NSRC’s 997 hotline or at a police station, you should have the following information ready:
- Brief description of the scam incident (e.g., the chronology of events)
- Your personal details (name, contact, ID, bank account number)
- The scammer’s details (name, contact)
- Transaction details (bank account number(s), amount, time of transfer)
- Evidence to support your claim such as screenshots of conversations with scammers
Read more about the NSRC’s online financial scam FAQ in English or Malay.
The Bottom Line
Scammers will always look for new ways to trick people. It’s a tale as old as time.
The most important thing you can do is stay vigilant and practise some common sense!
To get started, we highly recommend reading our comprehensive guide on how to protect yourself online, and the 11 most common types of digital scams.
If you’re dabbling in crypto, you might want to check out our guide on how to stay safe in crypto as well! 💙
I’m Sabrina, a versatile writer with 7+ years of experience and I’ve been published by household names such as Tatler, Harper’s Bazaar, Mindvalley, and Cosme Japan.
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