It's one thing to pull off a successful fraud online, it's another thing to get away with it — when crooks order merchandise with stolen credit cards or make withdrawals with stolen bank details, they risk leaving a trail back to themselves.
That's where money mules kick in: "mostly penniless students, unemployed guys wrecked by austerity, illegal emigrants and a few iron-board stay-at-home moms with imaginary businesses" (per Bruce Sterling), who think they're involved in a legit work-at-home business that has them serving as cut-outs and laundries for stolen goods and cash. They get stolen funds transfered to their accounts, take a "commission," then transfer them on to someone else. A few hops later, the money lands in the fraudster's account, onion-routed through a bunch of stooges.
Europol can't catch the crooks, so they're targeting the stooges, in a crackdown that includes 159 arrests last week, and a spooky social media campaign with its own hashtag: #DontBeaMule.
159 arrested, 409 suspects interviewed by law enforcement, 766 money mules and 59 money mule organisers identified as a result of the European Money Mule Action 'EMMA3', a global law enforcement action week against money muling (20 to 24 November)
Money mules are individuals recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering intermediaries to receive and transfer illegally obtained funds between bank accounts and/or countriesp>*
EMMA3 saw 26 countries participating, as well as Europol, Eurojust, the European Banking Federation (EBF), 257 banks and private-sector partners
The joint money muling awareness campaign #DontBeaMule kicks off today to alert the public to this crime
(via Beyond the Beyond)