BSP issues warning against money mules

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is warning the public against criminals using “money mules” to do their illicit fund transfers.

In an advisory, the BSP said criminals have shifted to using money mules to move their dirty money out of the financial system.

“These criminals rely on money mules to safely and discreetly launder the proceeds of their illegal activities,” the BSP said.

Money laundering is a criminal offense punishable under Republic Act 9160, also known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

Money mules are people who serve as intermediaries for criminals and criminal organizations.

Criminals recruit mules to move illegal money electronically through bank accounts, move physical currency or assist the movement of money through a variety of other methods.

Once the money is received, the mule will wire the money into a third-party bank account; “cash out” the money received, possibly via several cashier’s checks; convert the money into a virtual currency; convert the money into a prepaid debit card; send the money through a money service business; or conduct a combination of these actions.

Money mules are inherently dangerous, as they add layers to the money trail from a victim to a criminal actor, the BSP said.

How to know if you are being used as a money mule?

The BSP said there are some individuals who are aware of their roles as money mules for illegally acquired funds, while others are victims of online scams who unknowingly serve as money mules.

“Criminals usually target college students, job applicants, online dating seekers, and retirees/elderly to fall for their fraud schemes,” the central bank said.

To avoid the trap, the public is advised to watch out for suspicious signs such as receiving communications (via email, social media or others) from unknown sources offering “easy money” schemes; or being asked by someone you met online to receive money in your bank/electronic money account, withdraw the funds and give it to another unknown individual.

Another red flag, the BSP said, is getting job offers from companies asking you to use your personal bank/electronic money account to “process” or “transfer” company funds.

The BSP urged the public to be vigilant by not disclosing their bank accounts; not entertaining communications from strangers, avoiding the trap of easy money schemes and not accepting any request to send or transfer money to/from personal accounts, especially from unknown individuals or companies. (CSL)