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Dark side of cybercrime, mule accounts: Know how individuals can unwillingly become accomplices in money laundering | #cybercrime | #computerhacker


As per regulations of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Indian payment systems should not be used for blacklisted or banned website categories like gambling, pornographic sites, Forex trading sites, Chinese laundering/loan apps or on other restricted sites.  

To bypass this restriction, fraudsters use mule accounts to receive money via Indian payment instruments like bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, UPI, or VPA.

A mule account is a term prevalent in cybercrime that identifies a type of account used to move money illegally obtained through fraudulent activities. These accounts often belong to innocent individuals who, knowingly or unknowingly, have been deceived into participating in the illegal act of money laundering.

Without the knowledge of being part of a larger scam, these individuals, referred to as ‘money mules’, are coaxed into allowing anonymous online criminals to use their bank accounts to obscure the origins of ill-gotten money. Fraudsters make these transactions appear legitimate through clever schemes and manipulations, disguising the money’s criminal heritage before it reaches its final destination.

Amit Relan, Co-Founder and CEO of mFilterIt said, “We detect 18 to 20 thousand cases every single day for a National Bank. These mule accounts are usually owned by regular people who are either tricked into opening them or knowingly use them at the behest of some monetary payments. We advise people not to share their account details or give access to anyone. Fraudsters can use your credentials for such illegal activity.”

How customers are contacted and tricked: Money mules can be categorised into two groups: willing participants and duped participants. The fraudster contacts the mule account customer electronically through email, website, social media, etc., and the customer is falsely convinced that they will receive some money in their account through some incentive or commission. Then, the fraudster transfers illegal money into the Mule account.

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Scammers prey on vulnerable members of society or use elaborate job scams or fake online relationships to dupe people. They are lured with promises of easy money for seemingly harmless activities like transferring money or goods. If an online job opportunity seems too good to be true or requires handling money or goods, it’s a potential mule recruitment scheme.

Dhiren .V. Dedhia, Head – Enterprise Solutions, CrossFraud, says, “Fraudsters might pose as authentic organisations like banks or government agencies to deceive victims into divulging personal or financial details. Phishing emails frequently include hyperlinks or attachments that, once clicked or opened, can deploy malware or direct users to fake websites crafted to steal sensitive information.”

So, you should know that mule accounts exist and how they work. Remember, if an individual controls your bank account, you are losing your savings and risking possible criminal charges. Staying informed and acting responsibly is the best defence against falling victim to a mule account scam.

What you should do: Never share personal banking information with people you don’t know or trust, even if they present a convincing story or situation.

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