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Money Mules – A Growing Problem

Money Mules – A Growing Problem


In the 2018 release of “The Mule,” starring Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone, a 90-year-old man who is broke, alone, and facing foreclosure of his business. Earl is offered a job that requires him to drive. While that should be easy enough, Earl doesn’t know that he had signed on as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. The movie was based on The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick. Inspired by the true story of Leo Sharp, an 80-year-old World War II veteran, Sharp became the world's oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Money mules and crime have long been one and the same, and financial institutions have been working to prevent them for a very long time. First Reliance Bank knows of the dangers and is aggressive in our efforts to thwart it. One important effort is to educate our customers about the risks.

One risk is knowing who is targeted. While students are often targeted, anyone with a bank account can be approached to be a money mule.

What Are the Signs?*

Work-from-Home Job Opportunities

  • You received an unsolicited email or social media message that promises easy money for little or no effort.
  • The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based email services (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, etc.).
  • You are asked to open a bank account in your own name or in the name of a company you form to receive and transfer money.
  • As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then “process” or “transfer” funds via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
  • You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
  • Your duties have no specific job description.

Dating and Social Media Sites

  • An online contact or companion you have never met in person asks you to receive money and then forward these funds to one or more individuals you do not know.

Protect Yourself

  • Perform online searches to check the legitimacy of any company that offers you a job.
  • Do not accept job offers that ask you to use your bank account to transfer money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
  • Be wary if an employer asks you to form a company to open a new bank account.
  • Be suspicious if an individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
  • Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.

Respond and Report

If you have received solicitations of this type, do not respond to them, and do not click on any links they contain. Inform your local police or the FBI.

If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme:

  • Stop communication with the suspected criminal(s).
  • Stop transferring money or any other items of value immediately.
  • Maintain any receipts, contact information, and relevant communications (emails, chats, text messages, etc.).
  • Notify your bank and the service you used to conduct the transaction.
  • Notify law enforcement. Report suspicious activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at, and contact your local FBI field office.


Additional resources:

What’s Driving the Latest Wave of Money Mules? 

Types of money mules

True stories



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