While the world enjoys technology, cybercriminals have also become creative in their online fraud activities through the use of money mules and ID the

Online Fraud: The use of Money Mules and Identity 

Much of the world is online these days. People rely on the internet for business activities and other online activities daily. Paying through the internet is now easier and faster and enabled quick money movement. While this technological advancement benefits many people, it has become the avenue for cybercriminals to do their online fraud activities.

With any online transaction you do, there is a possibility that a cybercriminal or hacker is lurking and watching what you do from the sidelines. Scary as it may sounds, but it is happening, and the growth of these cyber incidents are quite alarming.

 In recent years, the growing numbers of online fraud activities are getting massive. In 2019, about almost $1.9 billion in losses related to these fraudulent activities. One of the most popular and most used cyberattacks is identity theft.

However, as technology continues to progress, hackers and cybercriminals have become creative in their wicked plans. To cover their tracks, they have found ways like money mules to make cybersecurity breach a success.

So, who are money mules? How do they work? What makes them useful with identity theft?

The Rise of Identity Theft and Money Mules

Fraudulent activities have been going on for years already. One of the most common online fraud that has affected millions worldwide is identity theft. This type of cybercrime involves the use of somebody else's identity to do harmful activities like steal money or scam someone. Stealing someone's identity resulted from other cybercrimes like social engineering attacks, phishing scams, and other cyber threats. Some hackers steal data and additional sensitive information by gaining access and infiltration to a restricted system.

On the other hand, money mules are individuals who act as runners for cybercriminals after stealing a large amount of money and doing other online fraud activities. These individuals become an instrument to move stolen or ill-gotten money around. Because many of these money mules use fake identity, it has become a challenge to trace them and get to hold of their whereabouts.

How Identity Theft and Money Mules Work

You may have heard a lot about identity theft and how cybercriminals use it in fraudulent online activities. Cybercriminals mimic a person's identity by getting ahold of sensitive information which enables them or their accomplice to pose as someone else. These wrongdoings can become possible by infiltrating a system, accessing an entry point in your computer, or intercepting any of your online transactions.

Money mules, on the other hand, are a real person who acts as a dummy for these stolen identities and fulfills the works of online fraudsters. Most mules open bank accounts and transfer a large amount of money, covering the traces of cybercriminals, making it hard to get hold of them and arrest them.

How to Recognize If You're Used As Money Mule

Unknowingly, many fall into becoming money mules without their knowledge. Be vigilant as you need to watch out for signs that scream red flag even from a distance. 

  • Companies that offer false promises - Some hackers make themselves appear as a "company" who wants to hire people. They randomly identify a person whom they think is susceptible to their fake offerings. These criminals make it hard to say no with all their too good to be true false promises. When a job offer is too great to believe that it is possible, walk away from it and completely ignore it.
  • You've Won Without Joining Anything – Winning a lottery or sweepstakes is a dream come true for many people. However, if you receive an email, a phone call or even a text message saying that you won a large amount of money from a contest you don't even know nor submit an entry, then this is probably an online fraud.
  • Ask You To Open A Bank Account – Though this may be a little hard to decipher whether this is legit or not, when a stranger or an "employer" asks you to open a bank account, always be cautious with the intent.
  • You Are Asked To Move Money Around – This may be the easiest to spot on if you are a money mule for any online fraud activity. When someone asked you to receive money and transfer the said money on a different bank, there is a big chance that involves illegal activity.
Things You Can Do To Stop ID Theft and Mule Fraud
  1. Be Cautious When Doing Transactions Online

Everyone can fall as a victim, there is no exemption, and no one is immune. Take extra precautions when you engage yourself with any online transaction. While it is very convenient these days to do online banking, it becomes of the most natural target for online fraud. Make sure you use a long and complex password. Activate also 2-factor authentication (2FA) or fingerprint identification. Always check your internet security and avoid connecting to any public Wi-Fi.

  1. Don't Accept Money from Strangers

While it is never wrong to use any dating app, take in mind that these places have a high chance of cybercriminals lurking in the background. Always be on the lookout for malicious interactions with strangers. Some fraudsters even work hard to gain your trust and try to build a formidable relationship with you.

A new friendship may blossom if you meet someone online through social networking sites or a dating website. However, if your new friend or new love interest is asking you to receive money and have it sent out to other people, then they not after building any relationship with you. Instead, they want you to take part in their wrongdoings and help them cover their tracks.

  1. Do Not Believe Easily

It may be very fortunate to land a dream job or win a lottery prize that can change your whole life. However, at times, it is just too good to be true. When you encounter something like this, be careful with these kinds of transactions, as this may be a case of online fraud. Unless you have proven that it is real and legit, avoid interaction, and not give any personal information.

  1. Install an Antivirus

While this will not keep the bad guys from befriending you or start a fake romance with you, this will save you online transactions safe. Put an advanced anti-malware program to make your computer and device protected. This precautionary measure will also help to keep your devices not susceptible to any possible attacks.

  1. Always Be on The Lookout For Warning Signs

There is nothing wrong with being cautious. If you are starting a new job or dealing with someone you recently met, it would be best to do a background check. It will help you find any possible red flag and warning signs that can prohibit you from being involved in any fraudulent act.

Final Thoughts

Technology is one of the greatest things we have these days. However, this same advancement has also given way to many acts that threaten our online and offline safety.

Hackers and cybercriminals now use different tactics to continue with their online fraud activities. These strategies include stealing identity and use other people to cover their tracks. Be very careful and cautious when you make any online dealing. Do not trust anyone that easy and learn to watch for any malicious intent.


Maricar Morga

            Maricar Morga worked as a marketing professional for almost a decade. She became part of the biggest real estate company/mall operator in the Philippines and handled concerts, events and community service-related activities. One of her activities became a nominee in the ICSC Asia-Pacific Shopping Center Awards 2018. Leaving her corporate job for good to pursue her dreams, she has now ventured in the path of content writing and currently writes for Softvire Australia and Softvire New Zealand. A Harry Potter fan, she loves to watch animated series and movies during her spare time.

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