Money Mule Scams
If someone sends you money and asks you to send it to someone else, you may unknowingly be part of a scam where you serve as the so-called “money mule.” This means you are helping a scammer to make it impossible to trace money that they acquired illegally.
Scammers disguise their malicious intent behind schemes that involve a request to transfer funds to other sources for payment.
These schemes could be related to online dating, work-at-home jobs, or prize-winning. Scammers send money to you, sometimes by check, then ask you to send some of it to someone else. They often ask you to use gift cards or wire transfers.
The result, unfortunately, is loss of your hard-earned funds, potential theft of your personal information or, if the money accepted was stolen, serious legal consequences.
Beware of Email Scams
“Phishing” is a scam that attempts to obtain your personal information through your email. The scam occurs when a fraudulent email appearing to be from a legitimate company directs you to a link that asks you sign on to another account. The fraudulent sender then captures your information in an attempt to steal your identity. Phishing emails can be very deceiving and often contain logos or have a look that is similar to the website or company they are mimicking.
Self-Help will never send an email requesting personal account information. If you receive an email that appears to be sent by Self-Help asking for personal account information, you can be sure it is a phishing scam.
Should you receive one of these emails:
- Do NOT click the link in the email *
- Do NOT enter any requested information *
- Contact Member Services at 800-966-7353 *
* Forward the email to our Member Support Center
Other common schemes
Here are a few other common deceptions to watch out for:
They ask for personal information, like your social security or your bank account number.
Do not share this information with anyone you do not know and trust. Reputable companies will not contact you and ask for this information over the telephone or by email.
They say they are collecting a fee for your government relief check, or they promise to send the check to you faster.
Hang up or delete the message immediately. There is no fee associated with government stimulus checks, and there is nothing you or any other individual can do to make it come sooner.
They send an email and urge you to open the attached document.
Be extremely cautious. If you don’t know the sender of the email, or if the message seems odd or unexpected in any way, do not open the attachment. Doing so can install malicious software on your computer that gives the sender complete access to your information and your device. If the apparent sender is known to you and you have any doubts, double check with them in a separate message before clicking on the attachment.
They send an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate group—e.g., the World Health Organization—and provide a handy link where you can make a donation. Don’t click! If you want to donate, it is always safest to go directly to the organization’s website.
They call and identify themselves as a company, a relative or a big government agency, e.g., the Social Security Administration. Or your grandchild who is having an emergency. Or Microsoft or Apple. Or some charming person you’ve met online.
These are called “imposter” scams, and the common thread is that they usually ask you to respond to an urgent situation that requires money. Remember that no government agency or big company will call you out of the blue and demand money immediately. If the caller doesn’t want to give you time to consult with family members or advisers, they don’t have your best interests at heart.
How can you protect yourself?
To protect yourself from scams, please know that we won’t ask for confidential information—such as your name, password, PIN or other account information—if we reach out to you. See the Federal Trade Commission’s advice.
To guard against phishing, don’t open links in emails or texts unless you’re sure that they’re authentic. And never provide your usernames or passwords outside of the normal secure sites and apps you use, like our mobile app and self-help.org
If your Self-Help debit or credit card has been stolen or compromised as the result of a scam, please call your local branch or our Member Services Center at 800-966-7353 right away so that we can assist you.
Think you’ve been a victim of a money mule or other scam? Report it to the Federal Trade Commission or to your state Attorney General’s office.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has compiled robust lists of work-from-home security tips for institutions and individuals.
Learn more about fraud and account protection
Money Mule Scams
- Stay on the lookout for phishing attempts that can lead to fraud and identity theft. Fraud involving payment of Federal taxes should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
- The CDC is aware of phishing emails, fraudulent calls and voice mails appearing to originate from them as well.