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FBI Warns Love Fraud Victims Often Made Into Mules

The international crime-fighting agency, Interpol, issued a press release announcing it had arrested over 20,000 scammers in 2020. The release includes details on how scammers subdue their victims and, increasingly, trick them into committing financial crimes too. It states, "In Singapore, police arrested a man who presented false INTERPOL credentials when accompanying an elderly woman into a bank for a withdrawal. A further investigation found that the man appeared to be himself the victim of fraudsters who had called him pretending to be Chinese law enforcement agents, provided him with the fraudulent identification and directed him to seize the elderly woman’s funds."

In 2019, the FBI released a warning that Love Fraud victims are increasingly being used as money mules, usually unwittingly, to commit financial crimes on the fraudster's behalf. The FBI report states, "In some situations the victim may be unknowingly recruited as a “money mule”: someone who transfers money illegally on behalf of others. Actors groom their victims over time and convince them to open bank accounts under the guise of sending or receiving funds. Grooming is defined as preparing a victim to conduct fraudulent activity on their behalf through communications intended to develop a trust relationship. These accounts are used to facilitate criminal activities for a short period of time. If the account is flagged by the financial institution, it may be closed and the actor will either direct the victim to open a new account or begin grooming a new victim."

This means, financial crime victims are not only financially devastated but they are, increasingly, at risk of committing crimes and face those severe charges too.

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