Law enforcement authorities from 26 countries and Europol took part in European Money Mule Action ‘EMMA 6’, a worldwide operation against money mule schemes. Between September and November 2020, EMMA 6 was carried out for the sixth consecutive year with the support of the European Banking Federation (EBF), FinTech FinCrime Exchange, INTERPOL and Western Union. As a result, 4 031 money mules were identified alongside 227 money mule recruiters, and 422 individuals were arrested worldwide.
During the span of the operation, 1 529 criminal investigations were initiated. With the support of the private sector, including more than 500 banks and financial institutions, 4 942 fraudulent money mule transactions were identified, preventing a total loss estimated at € 33.5 million.
Money mules are individuals who, often unwittingly, have been recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering agents to hide the origin of ill-gotten money. Unaware that they are engaging in criminal activities, and tricked by the promise of easy money, mules transfer stolen funds between accounts, often in different countries, on behalf of others. In exchange, they receive a commission for their services.
While mules are recruited via numerous routes such as direct contact or through email, criminals are increasingly turning to social media to recruit new accomplices, through the advertisement of fake jobs offers, online pop-up ads and instant messaging applications. Although some COVID-19 related cases have been reported, payment process compromise and romance scams continue to be the most recurrent schemes. The use of cryptocurrencies by money mules is also on the rise. The use of cryptocurrencies by money mules is also on the rise.
Europol and EU law enforcement authorities together with international partners and financial institutions launched the #DontBeaMule campaign to raise awareness among the public on the risks of money mule schemes.
The campaign, promoted nationally by competent authorities, is designed to inform the public about how criminals operate, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they become involved.
What do you risk as a money mule?
• physical attacks or threats if you don’t continue to cooperate with the criminals
• prison sentence, fine or community service
• a criminal record that could seriously affect the rest of your life, such as never being able to secure a mortgage or open a bank account.
What can you do?
If you think you might be used as a mule, act now before it is too late: stop transferring money and notify your bank and your national police immediately.
Operation EMMA is part of an ongoing project conducted under the umbrella of the EMPACT Cybercrime Payment Fraud Operational Action Plan, designed to combat online and payment card fraud, led by the Netherlands.
During this operation, Europol supported the coordination and preparation of operational meetings, delivered analysis and facilitated the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities and private partners. Furthermore, Europol coordinated the awareness campaign with the participating countries.
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