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The Courts

FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules" 215

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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  • 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 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]

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:21PM (#32186862)

    Hmmmm, "If it is X, it probably is X."


    I think you meant, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by jonbryce ( 703250 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:54PM (#32187152) Homepage

    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 bank then reverses the transfer leaving the money mule's account overdrawn. Or maybe if you are very lucky, the phishing victim doesn't notice, and the transfer doesn't get reversed.

    A slightly different version of it uses stolen credit card details. They order high value equipment using the phishing victim's credit card and have it shipped to the mule. The mule then forwards it to the phisher, or probably another mule in a different country.

  • by krebsonsecurity ( 1714228 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:01PM (#32187222)
    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:financial fraud? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:10PM (#32187290)

    Money laundering? Legalize victimless activities and the "money laundering" problem goes away. As do most of the other problems associated with those activities.

    What an astute observation. Legalize identity theft, online fraud, and credit card theft, becuase that's what this article is about, and that's where the money mules are an issue. What? The hell you say! You didn't read the article before opening your big mouth and suggesting a moronic solution? I'm shocked! I have grown to expect so much more from Slashdot intellectuals. I'm disappointed.

  • 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]

  • 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 John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:24PM (#32188276) Homepage

    > There may be crimes against such laundering...

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

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:28PM (#32188296) Homepage

    > ...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?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:27AM (#32189536)

    Not always bogus.

    Case where I helped.

    Someone needed to setup an account to receive money from a pay-per-click advertiser who at the time did not do business with people in his country. I kept 10% for the service. Perfectly legal, the checks were real as well. He later had his account terminated for getting too greedy, but that's not my problem. :)

  • Re:What? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:37AM (#32191312)

    Something like this happened in Ireland. A friend of mine was almost roped into it some years back.

    He got offered a job with a Korean company that were selling PC/Computers and were in the process of setting up an office there. He had an interview and all with a person (which later turned out to be not their offices). They explained due to some legal tax reason as they were not Irish nationals they could not open business accounts.

    So they hire the person to create a business account (ie. Bank account), then they transfer funds into it from customers. At that point it would of been his job to withdraw the money and send by Western Union while keeping a percentage for himself.

    Sounded too good to be true. So we searched for information on the company and found the website in question was fake. 1-2 main pages worked but nothing else. Address was fake too. So he didn't go through with it. Based on the horror stories coming out from scams he didn't even ring the guy back.

    Later found out that what happened is when the cops finally realize someone is going down they follow the money trail to the sap who gets the percentage. They end up getting charged for it and the con-men get away with the cash.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson