Remember the CRA phone scam? Receiving a call from an unknown number with a pre-recorded message warning that you owed the CRA a lot of money and you were facing prison time and prosecution if you didn’t pay right away?
In February 2020, the RCMP arrested two Canadian individuals involved with this scam. They are accused of being money mules.
What are money mules?
Money mules are individuals who launder money from criminal operations by completing financial transactions such as cashing cheques or opening bank accounts to deposit illegally obtained money.
In the CRA scam, the individuals involved knew that the money they were receiving was fraudulently obtained from scamming Canadians. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an uptick in money mule scams where the people involved had no idea they were participating in illegal activity.
This exposes innocent people to financial loss and even criminal prosecution for their involvement in money laundering.
This is typically how money mule scams work:
- The scammer will reach out to an innocent third-party through various means. This could be through a job posting for a work-from-home job opportunity, a supposed lottery winning, or even a friend or love interest that you’ve met online.
- The scammer will send you money and ask you to open a bank account, transfer a cheque, send a wire-transfer or do some other financial transaction for them using your name or bank account.
- In exchange for doing this work for them, scammers usually encourage the third party to keep some of the money.
By the time banks realize that the transactions counterfeited or fraudulent, the scammer will have disappeared, and the innocent “money mule” is on the hook. The bank may insist you repay the lost money, close your bank account, ban you from using their bank, and even threaten prosecution.
With an increase in work-from-home since the beginning of the pandemic, you may be tempted by job opportunities advertising work-from-home opportunities.
Here are some signs that the job posting you’re looking at could be a money mule scheme:
- The job description offers minimal details about the company or job requirements and/or may contain grammar mistakes.
- The person/employer communicates with you using a web-based email address like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook etc…
- You are asked to receive funds in your personal account, and/or send money via a wire transfer, mail or money service business like Western Union.
- They ask you to open a bank account for their business in your name.
- They tell you to keep some of the money for yourself.
The moral of this story is: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re in legal trouble because of a suspected money mule scheme, reach out to one of our lawyers today. We can assist you in negotiating and defending yourself against these civil claims.