Money for nothin': Play dumb, join the online fraud network

By | January 19, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

I've been offered extra work  ̶  as a money mule.

A chance to get the household budget in line and our retirement plans back on track after paying the balance on our new roof. Maybe the difference between my daughter going to her first college choice and a state school.

There it was, sitting in my Inbox, an opportunity courtesy of a vestigial account on one of the nation’s major job boards. I had to read through it a couple of times as the first sips of my first morning cup of coffee started to impact my circulatory system and the steam began to clear the sleep fog from my eyes, but there it was.

I was being recruited to be a money mule.

Of course, I didn’t take the gig, but it was easy to see why enough people sign on to make it possible for cyber fraud perpetrators to transfer money they’ve bilked from small businesses, municipal governments, universities etc. It’s easy money; not a lot, but easy.

Money mules are just folks who are recruited to help criminals launder money, or sometimes reship goods to accounts and addresses abroad  ̶  Russia, the Ukraine, etc. Make money at home in your spare time kind of thing. It’s widespread and low risk. Money mules comprise the very loose pseudo networks that make online fraud work as big business.

Talk about job creation. A lot of people who are out of work, behind on the mortgage payments, or just a little greedy are recruiting targets. Solicitations like the one I received make it easy to believe this is legitimate work, fool yourself into believing it is legitimate work, or swearing you thought it was legitimate just in case the authorities come by to ask a few questions. It’s a lot safer and a lot easier to rationalize than being a drug mule.

“Honest, officers, I had no idea this Germany-based company were not on the up and up. They needed folks with accounts in the U.S. to help them out, and, yeah, I admit, I needed the money.”

For some of the best coverage of online fraud (banking Trojans, etc.) and money mules  ̶  some of the best security journalism, period  ̶   check out Brian Krebs' security blog, Krebs On Security.

Ah, what’s this in my Inbox now? “Product Shipping Manager.” Work at home. Must be 21 years of age or older, U.S. citizen. From someone named Jodee something. English is a little rough: "Our firm have found your resume in reviewed it and sure that you to be a perfect applicant."  I look up the company: Yep, they too want me as a money mule. Nice to be in such demand, work at home,easy money. Hmm.

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