Utah Bank Warns Of Money Mule Scams
OGDEN, Utah – When a woman in her 20’s walked into the Ogden branch of the Bank of Utah, she had no idea she had been duped into becoming a critical link in a fraudulent money mule scheme.
Thanks to the alert staff, she stopped before carrying out her “employer’s” request for a financial transaction that would have broken the law and gotten her into legal hot water.
That transaction did not sit right with branch manager Melissa Bernson, who said the woman was depositing checks into her account, then immediately tried to pull the money out.
Bernson pulled the woman into her office where her suspicion was confirmed. The woman told her she thought she had a new job and was sending cash, on behalf of her new boss, to a client.
“After the conversation, she realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m caught up in something that is illegal,’” said Bernson.
That is right! It turned out what she was really doing is taking money from other victims who had been duped into sending, and then laundering it clean – making it harder for law enforcement to trace.
Bernson contacted the KSL Investigators in the hopes of warning others.
“Be on the lookout,” she warned. “There’s specific red flags.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, money mule scams take several forms: victims often thinking they found online romance and are sending money to a lover, they believe they have won a prize and are sending fees to claim it, or like in this case, folks who believed they were doing honest work.
There never was a relationship, prize, or job – only a scam.
“We’ve seen an uptick,” noted Bernson.
She said her bank trains employees to be on the lookout and to be proactive in having that awkward conversation with customers:
“That you are, unfortunately, a money mule,” Bernson said.
Money mules can sometimes find themselves in legal trouble since what they are doing is basically taking in stolen funds into bank accounts in their own names.
If that is not bad enough, a victim may be held responsible for repaying a bank for that money, and there is also the possibility their own personally identifiable information has been stolen by their fraudulent bosses or online companions.
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your bank, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC.