TUCSON, Ariz. —
The FBI says Arizonans are a big target for mule scams during the pandemic because some vulnerable victims commit the crime and don’t realize they’re doing it. According to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, it all starts with grooming by scammers. Crooks also use the uncertainty and fears of the pandemic to gain your trust.
They befriend the victim through romance and friend scams from the U.S. and overseas along with fake work from home scams. Criminals will also send you a check and tell you to take a cut for your work—then ask you to send the rest of the money back.
Most of the victims are approached online, through dating sites, Facebook and phone. Money mules basically allow others to use their bank accounts to transfer and launder money. FBI Special Agent Gary Hellmer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Granoff both say scammers use money gram and western union to move the cash.
“It’s all done online via text and telephone. The scammers will eventually start requesting the victims to move money for them,” Hellmer said.
“Fraudsters will recruit them to move the money because it helps the organization it disguises the tracing of the proceeds leading to a fraud,” Granoff said.
Officials say never give access to your bank account by sending or receiving money from strangers and it’s always best to keep your personal information private. The elderly are also marked as the number one target because some end up sending and receiving money and have no idea they’re committing a crime. If caught you can face felony money laundering charges, up to 20 years in jail and $100,000 in fines.
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