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What is a money mule scam?
Once fraudsters gain your trust, they exploit it by using you as a money mule and accessing your accounts to move fraudulent funds. Money mule scams follow a typical pattern:
- A fraudster contacts you through channels such as social media, job boards or dating sites to build trust and connection.
- Once the fraudster has gained your trust, they'll ask you to deposit cheques or accept transfers into your account. You won't know that the cheque or funds are fraudulent.
- Once you've made the deposit, the fraudster will provide an account and ask you to transfer those funds to them through a wire transfer or email money transfer service.
- After you've made the transfer, you'll learn the initial funds were fraudulent. By then, you've already lost your money and can be responsible to cover the money you moved.
Recognize the types of money mule scams
Fraudsters say you've won a lottery but you need to pay taxes to claim your prize. If you can’t pay them upfront, you'll be referred to a third-party (who is in on the scam) to provide a cheque or loan to cover the taxes. After you transfer the tax payment, the third-party funds turn out to be fraudulent and you're responsible for covering the money you sent.
A fraudster buys an item you’re selling but overpays you for it. You refund them the difference. You find out later, however, that their original payment was fraudulent and you've lost the money you refunded and the item that you were selling.
A fraudster pretends to be a new employer and asks you to deposit money into your account as part of a job offer. They'll ask you to move a portion of that money into another account. You'll find out after that the original deposit was fraudulent and you've lost the money you moved.
A fraudster claims to be a foreign government official and asks you to move money out of their country for them. They send you the funds to move to another account and you move them as instructed. However, the fraudster's payment doesn't clear and you've lost the money you moved.
You're told you've inherited money from a relative you've never met but must pay service fees to receive the inheritance. The fraudster keeps your payment and you never receive the expected inheritance.
Spot the signs of money mule scams
If you're asked to move money for a stranger or accepted their deposit, look out for these warning signs:
- You've never met the person who's asking you to make the transfer
- The person asking you to transfer money makes contact through unofficial or unsolicited channels, such as job boards, dating sites, social media or emails
- The person asks you to transfer money from a deposit that hasn't cleared yet
- You've received an overpayment and are asked to refund the difference
- The person cuts off contact after you've made the transfer to them
Scams through job boards
- You're offered a large sum for minimal work or effort
- You interact with your contacts exclusively online and have never met them in person
- The job description is vague with little to no experience needed
- The position requires moving money
Stay safe with our tips
- Send money only to people you know. If you've only talked to someone online, ask a trusted friend or family member for advice or a second opinion.
- If you are a parent, guardian or power of attorney, know who your children or elderly family members are talking to online.
- Check email addresses from a contact or sender for official email domains, not publicly available ones such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo.
- Don't agree to transfer funds from your personal bank account. Legitimate business and offers won't involve a request to transfer funds.
- Wait for a deposit to clear your account before you make any transfers. By waiting, you won't lose money or be responsible for covering a loss if a deposit turns out to be fraudulent.
What to do if you think you've been targeted by a money mule scam:
- Stop all contact with the individual. Keep notes and references of their contact details and any identifying information.
- If you've moved money, let us know right away.
Explore more about money mule scams
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Opens in a new window.
Report fraud when it happens and track the latest data on fraud happening in Canada.
The Little Black Book of Scams Opens in a new window.
Download the Canadian Competition Bureau's guide to scams in 8 different languages.
Canadian Bankers Association Opens in a new window.
Read about the latest news and trends in fraud awareness and prevention.