Money mules

Don’t be tricked into committing a crime

If you let someone use your account for a transfer, you could be helping them move money illegally.

Money muling is a type of money laundering. Money laundering means disguising where money really came from – for example, by moving money through different bank accounts. Criminals recruit people – money mules – to help them do this.

Have you ever been asked to help transfer money by

  • An online friend or love interest?
  •  Someone offering a way to make easy money?
  •  Someone claiming to need help as they can’t use their own bank account?

If yes, you may have been talking to a ‘mule herder’, who was trying to recruit you as a money mule – and if you did what they asked, you may have committed a crime.

What's a money mule?

A money mule is someone who lets criminals use their bank account to move money. Often the mule doesn’t know what’s really happening, and has been manipulated into believing a cover story, or lured by an offer of payment.

What’s a mule herder?

A mule herder recruits money mules. They search your social media profile for information, and then use it to befriend you or trick you into receiving stolen money into your bank account. A herder might approach you online, through a messaging app, or in person.


What money muling looks like

Mule herders lie to get what they want. They might say it’s a quick and easy way to make money, or that they urgently need to receive a payment or send money to someone, but can’t use their own account. They might offer cash or gifts as a reward.

The herder will use the cover story as an excuse to pass you stolen money. They might

  • Transfer money to you, or give you cash to pay into your account – they’ll ask you to pass it on by transfer or withdraw it as cash to give to someone else
  •  Ask for your online banking login details, or an activation code from your banking app – this lets them access your account and use it to launder money
  • Buy an item from you and ask to pay by bank transfer – they pay from a stolen account, and you give them the item. You lose the money when the fraud is discovered

Criminals move money this way to hide where it really came from – if you help, you become a criminal too.

What you might see on social media

Mule herders often set up fake profiles on social media and post advertising quick cash or easy investments. When you like their post or message them, they persuade you to follow their instructions by pretending there’s no risk.

Here’s what a mule herding account might look like on social media, and some examples of what they might post

Here’s what a conversation with a mule herder might look like

If you think someone is trying to trick you into money muling, block their account and report it.

Is it a crime to act as a money mule?

Yes. Handling money that came from illegal activity is a crime, even if you didn’t know what you were doing.

 If you’re caught acting as a money mule

  • Your bank account can be closed and you’ll have problems opening a new one
  • You’ll find it very difficult to get credit – like a student loan, phone contract, or mortgage
  • You could end up with a criminal record

You could go to prison for up to 14 years

Spot the warning signs

Knowing the warning signs can help you identify mule herders and avoid falling for their tricks. 

Look out for 

  • Contact from someone you don’t know trying to befriend you – especially online or in a messaging app 
  • Someone you’ve met online offering deals that sound too good to be true 
  • Job offers for quick and easy money with no experience necessary 
  • Anyone who asks to transfer money to your bank account for you to pass on to someone else  
  • Someone who wants to buy a valuable item from you and insists on paying by bank transfer 

How to help protect yourself

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some tips to protect yourself

  • Research all job offers and look into the company behind the offer
  • Stick to well-known sites for job searches – don’t apply for jobs that are only advertised on social media
  • Never accept money into your account if you don’t know where it’s from
  • Never share your bank details, contact details, or personal details with someone you don’t know
  • If you think you’ve been contacted by a mule herder, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously

Worried you’re already being used as a money mule?

  • Talk to someone you trust – especially if you’re being pressured into accepting the money, or the person sending it won’t let you stop 
  • Stop forwarding money that’s sent to you and contact your bank for help 

How you can help if you’re a parent or guardian

Young people are easy targets for mule herders – they're often new to managing their finances, and they may not know money muling is a crime, or what could happen if they're caught.

To help young people avoid mule herders, you can

  • Talk to them about how to keep their bank account safe. Make sure they know not to share their bank account details with anyone unless they know and trust them
  • Help them understand how to recognise and avoid offers that look too good to be true
  • Make sure they know not to talk to anyone who approaches them unexpectedly online, especially anyone asking to use their bank account
  • Ask questions if they start talking about a new job, or you see signs they've suddenly got extra money, especially if they can't explain where the money came from
  • If you notice them becoming more secretive, withdrawn or stressed, talk to them about it

We explain more about how you can help protect young people from mule herders on our Digital Wings blog.