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FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules" 215

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sorry-about-that-nigeria-thing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A top FBI official said today that the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called 'money mules,' individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud, writes Krebsonsecurity.com. The author says he has interviewed more than 150 money mules, and find most fit into one of two camps: the not-so-bright, and those who suspect something's not right, but do it anyway. From the story: 'I find most mules fit into the latter group, and you can usually tell because these individuals often will admit to having set up a new account for the job separate from where they keep their meager savings or checking. When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest.'"
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FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules"

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  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by butterflysrage (1066514) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:04PM (#32186722)

    You want me to cash this cheque and you will give me 5%? How can I lose?!?

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hypergreatthing (254983) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:07PM (#32186752)

      You know... if stupidity was illegal just about everyone would be prosecuted.

      I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jellomizer (103300)

        I would say that Everyone would be prosecuted. We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw, or let your emotions get in the way of good reason... Sure a lot of people on slashdot will deny this. Because they built their reputation on seeming that they are smarter then everyone else... However in reality we all do stupid things... Especially if there is a pretty woman asking you to do it.

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:56PM (#32187650)

        You know... if stupidity was illegal just about everyone would be prosecuted.

        I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

        Once upon a time that was true. I just read a column that talked about how over the last few years (5-20, I don't remember the time frame more closely than that) more and more laws don't take any notice of intent. I wish I could remember where I saw it.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by drew30319 (828970) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:50PM (#32188030) Homepage Journal

        I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

        For some crimes it matters but not for all. Drunk driving, trespass, and in many states statutory rape are all examples of strict liability crimes. Check out the wikipedia article on mens rea for an explanation and more details.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:What? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:26AM (#32189954)

          Yes. In Missouri, in 2003, a 35-year-old man was convicted of statutory rape and unlawful sexual deviancy with a minor (or similiar) when he was raped, at gunpoint, by a 16-year old male, and sent to prison. I don't have the case numbers on hand, just the article from the KC Star.

          Yes, when HE WAS A RAPE VICTIM.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheCarp (96830)

            My favorite was that Major League Baseball player a few years back. As I remember the case, he met a girl in a bar. She had used a fake ID to get into the bar, but was actually under age.

            He was convicted anyway. Even though she was in a 21+ place, with a fake ID, apparently its not unreasonable for the state to expect men in bars to check ID before they take girls home, and do a better job than the bar at catching fake IDs.

            -Steve

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:26PM (#32186914) Journal
      I'm surprised that these "money mules" actually get money from this operation. While looking for a job, I received these emails all of the time. I always thought the check was fake, and they were hoping you wired the money before the bank discovers it isn't legit.
      • There are different business models out there. Sure, if Nigeria's on either end of the deal, the check's bogus, and it's a one-shot scam (unless they can sell your name to somebody who's going to tell you they're the Nigerian National Bank's Fraud Inspection Division, trying to catch that Evil Miscreant who ripped you off, because you're now a known sucker.)

        But sometimes, the deal comes from a legitimate criminal enterprise who actually do want to launder and move money, whether they're drug dealers or e

        • by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:00PM (#32188078)

          Or they're using another company's wire account. The money is legit, they just didn't have the right to send it. When the actual company sues you for the money, you're extra screwed with legal fees.

          That almost happened at my company, a salesguy was all excited because some sucker wanted to pay double to get the merch shipped to Australia, if only we'd pay his shipping agent, and it "couldn't bounce because it was a wire transfer, not a check".

          Fortunately, the guy used the same address repeatedly and the first result on Google was somebody complaining about it.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            It still should be left up to the most appropriate agency in the first instance for money laundering. In this case the IRS, when the funds are put through the account they are income and should be taxed as such, it is up to the mule to prove the 'tax deductible payment' to the fraud. So either they pay tax on the full amount, get prosecuted and penalised for not paying tax or act as a witness for the other agency, in this case the FBI.

            The tax bill for the mule's part in money laundering is likely to be f

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daem0n1x (748565)

      planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called "money mules," individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud

      So, what are they going to do? Arrest all the Wall Street executives? Invade the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Luxemburg, Switzerland, etc. etc. etc.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:06PM (#32186742)

    They will find a way around a general crackdown on money mules. A lot of the east Europeans running these massive crime operations have MBAs and PhDs, and are untouchable because of political connections. They are certainly not stupid. Still, nice try.

    Anyway, why leave a crackdown on money mules so late? The FBI aren't stupid either -- what advantage is there to not busting mules?

    • by SoTerrified (660807) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:12PM (#32186792)

      Anyway, why leave a crackdown on money mules so late? The FBI aren't stupid either -- what advantage is there to not busting mules?

      As the article says, there are two camps. And while the latter camp is dirty and know it, the former camp are retirees who answer "Make money in your spare time" ads or unemployed people desperate for work who think it's legitimate. And any crackdown will wind up dragging these people in, many who are going to be very sympathetic.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:15PM (#32186810)

      You needn't find a way around the crackdown. You just have to put a few more layers of confusion around it and you'll find enough people stupid and gullible to fall for it.

      People are stupid. It's how we want them to be. If they wouldn't be stupid, they wouldn't be good consumers.

    • by jon3k (691256)
      "have MBAs and PhDs, and are untouchable because of political connections"

      Who? Name some. Otherwise I call "bullshit".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bsDaemon (87307)

        All the ones who get chicks. duh.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mike Buddha (10734)

        Don't you realize that most people who post on Craig's List are PhDs and MBAs from Europe and are above the law? It's a fact. Just accept it. This is Slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called "money mules," individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping...

    See usually if your the victim of fraud, you're considered the victim, the FBI thinks it would be better to prosecute them however.

    • People are prosecuted for receiving stolen goods all the time. How is this much different?
      • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:34PM (#32186992) Homepage Journal

        Only when there was reasonable expectation that the goods were stolen. If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

        • by Shimbo (100005) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:53PM (#32187144)

          If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

          As the original article says, the majority of mules know they are doing something slightly shady. They just don't know exactly what. I think it's reasonable to prosecute and let the court decide the degree of culpability.

          • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:20PM (#32188246) Homepage

            > As the original article says, the majority of mules know they are doing
            > something slightly shady.

            Perhaps, but the stated "evidence" merely indicates that they know they are doing something slightly risky, as in "Maybe this is legit, or maybe these guys have some scheme to rip me off. I'll open a separate account just to be safe."

            It is not a crime to be prudent.

        • As the story says, the people responsible for this activity can be viewed as either "not too bright" or "it seems like they knew something wasn't right." My money (no pun intended) is on most of them being a member of Club I'll Pretend I Didn't Know This Was Wrong. There's bound to be some crossover between the two groups, but always remember: criminal stupidity is largely defined by actions, not the capacity to know right from wrong (yeah, there are some cases where someone can't be held criminally liable
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

          Only when there was reasonable expectation that the goods were stolen. If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

          Hell, sometimes you get to keep the stuff. I know a car dealer that purchased an exotic (acura NSX) from some dude. Turns out that "some dude" stole it from the real owner via fraud - gave the guy a bogus cashiers check and his bank sat on it for a month before telling him it was bogus. After tracking the car down at the behest of the original owner, the FBI 'declined' to confiscate the car, instead left it up to the local DA, who let the dealer keep it. The only way the real owner got compensated was b

        • by mgblst (80109)

          Ok, I will send you a check, cash it, send me the money, I will give you 5%.

          To me, this seems very fishy.

          Why don't I just cash the check myself? Why don't I get a family member of friend to do it?

          I think this falls under the view that all reasonable people would suspect there is something wrong with that. Getting $100s or $1000s to do something as trivial as cashing a check.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by NewsWatcher (450241)

            I am a journalist, and once interviewed a guy who received an email telling him he could make $500 if he sent them his bank details.

            He had a vacant account and figured, 'what do I have to lose?' so sent them the details.

            He received a second email saying that they were going to deposit $1000 and he had to just forward $500 to an account with the details they sent him.

            In a few days sure enough, $1000 ended up in his account and he forwarded on the $500.

            He then got an email saying that because things went so w

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        People are prosecuted for receiving stolen goods all the time. How is this much different?

        There's a difference between stolen goods and stolen money. Imagine you own a store, and someone who (unknown to you) makes a large purchase after just having robbed a bank. In the transaction, you have received stolen money. Should you be prosecuted?

        • These people aren't shopkeepers. They're being paid for virtually nothing aside from serving as a pass-through conduit for money. Please reference my other post for a more detailed reply [slashdot.org] on the matter.
    • by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:19PM (#32186846) Homepage

      It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft . The crime is separate from robbery, extortion, or theft. Receiving stolen property is a crime in order to deter people from aiding or rewarding thieves by buying stolen property, and to deter theft in general. Receiving stolen property may be a misdemeanor or felony.

      In Order to Be Convicted of this Crime, the Prosecution Must Show

              * That the property was in fact stolen
              * That you were aware, or should have known, that the property was stolen

      http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/receiving-stolen-property.html [legalmatch.com]

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft

        But the property stolen isn't cash. It's TVs which are sold for cash. The cash is ill-gotten, but itself was not stolen, so isn't a stolen good. If they aren't laundering money from a bank robbery, then chances are they aren't laundering "stolen" money.

        There may be crimes against such laundering, but they wouldn't be the laws against receipt and possession of stolen property.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by John Hasler (414242)

          > There may be crimes against such laundering...

          The crime is "money laundering", one of many deliberately vaguely defined crimes.

    • by tattood (855883) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:25PM (#32186908)
      Being a victim of fraud means that someone stole your identity and then took money out of your account. Money was taken from YOU. Money laundering, even if it is unknown to the person doing the laundering, is an accessory to a crime. You are helping them "clean" the money they have already stolen.
      • The entire universe is an unknowing accessory to every crime.
      • by DRJlaw (946416) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:02PM (#32188088)

        Money laundering, even if it is unknown to the person doing the laundering, is an accessory to a crime. You are helping them "clean" the money they have already stolen.

        Unless you intended to make a very subtle distinction between a lack of knowledge of money laundering specifically versus a general lack of knowledge of a criminal act, I vehemently disagree. There is no such thing as a "strict liability" accessory crime in the United States.

        Accessory statutes descending from English legal tradition, such as those in the U.S., require at least some form of knowledge of a criminal act [google.com] (just not necessarily the criminal act committed by the principal). Do you know why? Because if being an accessory to say, money laundering, was a strict liability offense, then in the following:

        A. Money launderer obtains proceeds of criminal endeavor
        B. Money launderer buys plasma TV at Best Buy
        C. Money launderer sells plasma TV on eBay to an arms-length buyer at market price.

        all of Best Buy, eBay, and buyer are accessories to a felony. Full stop. This is patently ridiculous -- nobody could buy anything from an ordinary third party, or arguably broker a third party sale, for fear of becoming an accessory to a criminal act. Anything not purchased from the OEM would be suspect to varying degrees, and if your due diligence was both reasonable and wrong then you'd still an accessory.

        The distinction the FBI is drawing is between those few who cannot be charged because they just didn't suspect ("are simply not the sharpest crayons in the box and really did get bamboozled"), and those who can be charged because they had some form of knowledge and intent (as evidenced by things like separating their own funds from the funds they were handling). Mere sympathy does not excuse those in the first group from criminal liability -- the lack of of a sufficient mens rea excludes them from criminal liability.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by John Hasler (414242)

          > ...those who can be charged because they had some form of knowledge and
          > intent (as evidenced by things like separating their own funds from the
          > funds they were handling).

          Except that such separation is merely common (and prudent) business practice. If it isn't your money why would you not keep it in a separate account?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by baileydau (1037622)

            Except that such separation is merely common (and prudent) business practice. If it isn't your money why would you not keep it in a separate account?

            Correct.

            Even if this were a perfectly legal thing, I would personally do it via a separate account just to keep my personal finances separate from my business finances.

        • by mgblst (80109)

          all of Best Buy, eBay, and buyer are accessories to a felony.

          This is the problem. If Best Buy, or ebay only sold items to money launderers, then they would have a case to answer for.

          If you are cashing checks all the time, for 100s of people, and a couple end up dodgy, then they have no case. If all the checks you cash for other people are dodgy, then you are doing something wrong.

          Can you not see that?

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      That's like saying a drug dealer should not be prosecuted if their boss rips them off.

    • by sjames (1099)

      They, like far too many in law enforcement long ago ceased to give a damn about any of truth, justice, or the American way. They care only for "busting dirtbags" where dirtbags = anyone not in their particular branch of law enforcement no matter how innocent and never includes people in their particular branch of law enforcement no matter how dirty.

      They know damned well that a simple and brief conversation with an agent in their home will set well over 90% of these unwitting mules on the strait and narrow f

    • I believe this is largely a "marketing" exercise. One of their main aims would be to reduce the number of people willing to be mules. This means that the "real bad guys" have to work harder to get their money clean.

      They want to let those in "the latter group" know that this is definitely illegal, instead of having the thin veil of thinking it *may* be slightly dodgy in some way, but not necessarily illegal, or even if it is, no one has ever got in trouble for it.

      If they get a few convictions, or even get

  • But wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:15PM (#32186814) Journal

    They're going to have to arrest every member of the federal reserve... And what the hell do they think Wall Street is?

    • Re:But wait (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:19PM (#32186850)

      legal money laundering

      The government gets taxes out of it in most cases, so they don't mind so much what happens on wall street or who they steal it from.

  • financial fraud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drDugan (219551) * on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:17PM (#32186826) Homepage

    So let's make sure we're all clear: The FBI, the federal US law enforcement, is cracking down on financial fraud. Great.

    They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

    But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for (among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

    • by KDR_11k (778916) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:20PM (#32186858)

      They're going for money laundering, i.e. schemes set up to hide the origin of illegally gained money. No matter what crap banks pull with their money, it's at least legally gained and not relevant for money laundering investigations. Checking financial markets is a different department.

      • The original money doesn't exist. The check they're asked to cash is ALWAYS bogus.

        This is bank fraud. It may involve check kiting [wikipedia.org], where the original cheque is from a real - but overdrawn - account, or it may just involve fake cheques printed to order, but it;s still cheque fraud, not money laundering.

        And the vast majority of people who "get taken in" are just greedy slobs who want to believe so badly that they can actually make $500 for taking a $10,000 cheque and cashing it that they lie to themselve

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Whose says they aren't doing that as well? I'm pretty sure they are, just ask Jack Abramoff

    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:30PM (#32186958)
      Hey Hey Hey... you know? When it's 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, and you've got a big fishing trip planned for the weekend, and you just want to see your wife after a long day of paperwork, and your boss comes in and says:

      Hey buddy, I got a project for you. I want you to bust some of these financial fraud guys. We have some names you can start with here. On the first list, there are suspected money mules, and on the second list are a bunch of insanely-powerful superbankers that, upon learning of your very existence, will hire a small country of thugs to make sure you and your family never sleep again. Just try to get at least a few of these guys contacted by the end of the day, and give me a status report before you leave. Great. Awesome. [pat on the back]

      Which list will you end up "getting around to" before the clock strikes 5?
    • Re:financial fraud? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by OldeTimeGeek (725417) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:03PM (#32187240)
      This makes sense.

      A high-profile well-publicized investigation may make people more aware of the tactics that fraudsters use to recruit mules and could decrease the pool of people available purposes of laundering ill-gotten gains. It also serves the purpose of potentially scaring off mules that are very aware that they are laundering money for someone else but are nervous of being investigated by the Feds...
      • by sjames (1099)

        The investigation makes sense, and I'm fairly sure if federal agents show up at these people's doors, they will never take part in any such scheme again. They will probably be more than happy to share what little they know about their employers.

        So why prosecute unless they do it again (proving they are knowingly participating in crime)?

        As for the two camps, it's a far cry form wondering if it might be an advance check scam, so setting up a separate bank account to see how it goes and being sure it's money l

    • by maillemaker (924053) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:26PM (#32187418)

      >They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

      >But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with
      >enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the
      >banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for
      >among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and
      >on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

      Well of course! The dumb people don't have money for attorneys and politicians. So the FBI will go after the dumb people and then claim they did something about the problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      This should be obvious, but since you may not realize it, high frequency trading is not illegal. Money laundering is. It is the job of the FBI to go after people for doing illegal things. There is nothing wrong going on here.

      If you don't like it, complain to your congressperson to make a new law. Then high frequency trading will be illegal. And the FBI will prosecute it. And you can be happy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ErikZ (55491) *

      Correct.

      It's the same reason why the police like to bust pot smokers. It's easy and not dangerous.

    • But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading?

      High frequency trading is good for the market. Just as is short selling. (I throw that in there because many who dislike the former also knee-jerk about the later).
      High frequency trading has significantly increased liquidity, putting many "market makers" (trading houses who guarantee to purchase and sell a specific company's shares) out of business. Do to their unique position of being able to dictate bid and ask prices for low-volume stocks, market makers were widely reviled as a major source of abuse of

  • Either we want stupid people because they're easier to control. Or we want smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. Make up your mind government! It's unfair to cultivate stupidity and teach everyone that you're better off stupid (and if your stupidity causes you harm, sue someone because he didn't protect you from being stupid enough to hurt yourself, while at the same time being "too stupid to do it" is a valid excuse, while knowing "how to do it" can be incriminating) and then go a

    • "smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. "

      Intelligence has little to do with getting conned.

      • So you mean that it's equally easy (in average) to con somebody with IQ 90 and somebody with IQ 140? Sure, somebody with IQ 140 or higher can be conned and I'm sure there's anecdotally evidence for that, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

        Of course to understand the difference between the general rule and "it can happen" you probably need to have an IQ in three digits.

        (by the way I'm using IQ as a proxy for "intelligence" only as a shortcut, I know there are problem with this me

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:42PM (#32187528)

          So you mean that it's equally easy (in average) to con somebody with IQ 90 and somebody with IQ 140? Sure, somebody with IQ 140 or higher can be conned and I'm sure there's anecdotally evidence for that, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

          Probably easier to con a smart person than a dumb one. Just convince the smart guy that he's conning you, and he's ripe for plucking....

        • by L3370 (1421413)
          Conning smart people isn't necessarily easier or harder... It just requires a different approach.

          Talk to professional salesmen in the auto or finance industries. The good ones will tell you that a customer (victim) is powerless in the hands of an expert closer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883)

          Intelligence is different from (street) Smarts.

          If you ever worked with highly intelligent people, you surelly have noticed that some of them are hardly as successful as one would expect from their IQ - even if you have not noticed that about yourself.

          Intelligent people are in fact easier to con because:
          - They are so (over)confident in their own mental abilities and believe so much that they are thus un-connable that they won't even see the emotional/social manipulation of the conman (in a sense, they have a

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dkf (304284)

            Intelligence is different from (street) Smarts.

            There are multiple facets to intelligence, not all of which are measured through IQ. Moreover, most people actually reason in a Bayesian fashion, deciding how much to believe what someone's saying by evaluating the perceived trustworthiness of the speaker. If the scammer manages to get into a position where he can say things that are believed without actually being reasoned about (or say things that will be categorically not believed, allowing converse statements to be made and so belief to be established i

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Exactly. I've interviewed doctors, lawyers and even people with a finance background that were mules. Not saying all of them believed they were doing the right thing, just that it's not dim bulbs involved in this.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ndogg (158021)

        Yup, and many magicians will tell you that the more intelligent people are easier to fool.

  • "I find most mules fit into the latter group, and you can usually tell because these individuals often will admit to having set up a new account for the job" separate from where they keep their meager savings or checking. When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest."

    I keep separate a bank account for activities like PayPal. Does that

    • No, if you'd read the blurb that you just quoted, if you got a Paypal account to use for your work, and your work turned out to be fraudulent, then yes, you would have been presumed to have known.

      Do you work for Paypal? Then yes, your hypothetical situation is correct.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ... if PayPal is found to be fraudulent I'm going to be presumed to have known?

      It's PayPal. How could you not have known?

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:26PM (#32186922) Homepage Journal

    arrest all the people that worked at Enron. Clearly if you boss is doing something criminal all the employees should go to jail.

  • How are they going to do that legally or morally? If you got duped and thought you were doing something legal, its not your fault.

  • To my new friend in Nigeria who needs to move money out of the country does it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonbryce (703250)

      No, because that is a different type of fraud.

      This is the one where your bank sends someone an email saying they need to update their security details or something. They are directed to a fake bank website were they are asked to enter their login details.

      The phisher then logs in to the bank using these details, and wires some money to the money mule. The money mule then sends it by Western Union to the phisher.

      The phishing victim notices that all his money has disappeared and complains to the bank. The b

    • This would apply to someone in the US who your friend asks you to wire the money to, first. That's how a lot of these scams work. You give them your info, they give it to someone in the US who transfers the money into their account, withdraws it, then wires the money overseas, or to some other money mule to wire overseas. I'd read in another article that they use developmentally disabled adults, because they're more honest and competent to make these sorts of transactions.

  • by ZeBam.com (1790466) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:48PM (#32187086) Homepage
    Go after the little guy to stop the big-time mobsters. Oh yeah, sure, that'll work. Why didn't we think of that before? Put all the small time drug dealers in jail and it will put the big guys out of business. Put all the small-time incompetent terrorists who light their shoes or underwear on fire and put the big guys out of business. Put all the Abu Ghraib prison guards in jail and stop Pentagon Brass and civilian military leadership from being war criminals. Put Fabulous Fabrice on trial and stop finance industry mobsters from raping the planet.

    Yeah. What a good idea. Get some good headlines at least.
    • Because criminal organizations are like the hydra. You take out the leader and you just end up with two criminal organizations run by new heads.

      The only way to win is to take out the metaphorical legs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ZeBam.com (1790466)
        You're kidding right? When has that ever worked? While the hydra has a dozen heads, it has hundreds of millions of legs. Taking out the little guys is little more than Roman Circus for law-and-order politicians to prolong their dubious careers.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:52PM (#32187126) Homepage Journal

    I find it funny that no-one ever reports the most interesting part of these scams. Most of the time they money they are laundering is stolen by botnets. These same botnets often send spam that includes some amount of recruitment of money mules. Some of these "work from home" scams involve people putting up posters and yard signs to recruit money mules. The entire scam is facilitated and organized by an automatic distributed computer program. It's like a huge ants nest. The workers don't really know what they're doing, but the network maintains their motivation to keep doing it. The strangest part of all is that often these systems are so resilient that they keep going long after the head has been cut off by law enforcement. Somewhere there's probably accounts bursting with money funneled there by unthinking dupes acting as part of an unconscious mechanism.

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:34PM (#32187460)

    Why wouldn't you just keep the money? The bad guys are half a world a way and have no way to call the cops as if they would to begin with.

    Whenever I've heard of these kinds of scams (including a related one involving physical goods they send you and you ship overseas) I always wondered why people were so honest and actually went through with it instead of just keeping the money.

    It'd be like Bernie Madoff walking up to you with a suitcase of cash, asking you to go deposit it at some bank across town. Yeah, sure, Bernie. I'll call you when I'm done.

    • by mrbene (1380531)

      00:00 - Money transferred into your bank account
      01:00 - You take money out of your bank account
      01:30 - You send 92% of the money via Cash Transfer service
      03:00 - Fraud is reported by the actual victim
      04:00 - The 100% money is un-transferred from your bank account, leaving you with -92% of it.

      If you keep the money, you're not ahead - but at least you're not behind. However, at 01:30, you've not yet been burned, and are seeing a whole heap of money, so the greedy voice is saying "Do the transfer so the

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        Hehe.. that's not how the scam works. They might send you some money, but they say, "we want you to buy 20 domain names and we'll pay you X amount for each of them". When they detect that the domain names have been bought, they send you the money. Now you can cash out, but why would you? You can reinvest and keep buying domain names. Someone else is selling domain names. "They" == a botnet.

    • Because the bad guys are usually organized crime with an international presence?

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's an excellent argument that these people REALLY DO think it's a legit work from home job. They actually think the people they're working for are a legitimate business and so it would be wrong to rip them off.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:17PM (#32187814) Journal

    I'm ambivalent about this. Clearly a crime is being committed, and that needs to be pursued, but the mule is often unaware that they are committing one. This is especially bad in a down economy, when desperate people are more likely to sign up.

    A good friend of mine was so proud that she had finally found a job, and one she could do at home (bonus) and wouldn't be kicked out of her apartment after all. It was difficult to tell her that she was being hired to be a money mule and was almost certainly laundering money from illegal enterprises.

    Often, these people aren't being dishonest or lazy, they're honestly trying to make rent. (Cross-reference to stories about low income jobs being hit hardest in this economy.) None of us here would fall for it, but they're not trying to hire IT professionals; they're trying to hire out-of-work nonprofessionals who don't have the education or life experience to know better.

    Nailing a few mules won't really affect anything except arrest records (for those keeping score). There will always be more naive people to be suckered in, and the real criminals continue their operations. It seems like a better strategy would be for law enforcement to take the mule into their confidence and use them to trap the real criminals in return for amnesty. But that would be too much like real work, wouldn't it?

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:02PM (#32188090) Homepage

    > When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they
    > weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their
    > investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest.

    That doesn't mean that they thought the money was stolen: just that they thought their "employers" might be intending to try to swindle them by cleaning out their accounts. They may have suspected that the money was hot but you can't conclude that just because they took precautions.

  • In fact, it's the #1 mistake that small businesses and sole proprietors make, and the #1 way small businesses have their corporate veil pierced.

    If you have an LLC, you are only protected as long as you maintain your corporate veil. This REQUIRES that you have completely separate bank accounts, tax ID numbers, accounting databases, and everything. Commingling of personal and business assets is the first thing a lawyer will look for when he's trying to get to your personal assets (like your house, savings, 40

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