In March 2016, the Europol in partnership with other governing bodies and private parties worldwide, launched the European Money Mule Action (EMMA) designed to address the issue of money muling.  A money mule is a type of money laundering where an individual receives money to their bank account from a third party and transfers it to another person in the form of cash or an additional electronic payment – an action that earns them a commission. “Simply put, money mules help criminal syndicates to remain anonymous while moving funds around the world.”

Typically, a money mule is unaware of their involvement in a money laundering scheme, thus enhancing the ease and appeal of the practice.  However, what Europol and their partners aim to emphasize through their "#DontbeaMule" campaign and each EMMA is prevalence of this practice and culpability of the mule. Depending on the laws of the country of the relevant jurisdiction, a money mule can be faced with imprisonment, a criminal record, and adverse effects to their financial integrity. Since the first EMMA, there have been five internationally coordinated actions to uncover money mules in the world, the results:

  • EMMA 1: March 2016
    • 700 money mules were identified across Europe
    • 81 individuals were arrested after 198 suspects were interviewed by law enforcement agencies
    • 70 banks and private partners supported the action and over 900 victims were identified
    • More than 90% of the reported money mule transactions were linked to cyber crime
  • EMMA 2: November 2016
    • 580 money mules were identified across Europe
    • 178 individuals were arrested, and 380 suspects were interviewed by law enforcement with overall reported losses amounting to EUR 23 million
    • 106 banks and private partners supported the action
    • 95% of the reported money mule transactions were linked to cyber crime
  • EMMA 3: November 2017
    • Law enforcement authorities from 26 countries participated with the support of 257 banks and private sector partners
    • 159 individuals were arrested and 409 were interviewed by law enforcement authorities
    • 766 money mules and – for the first time – 59 recruiters/organizers were identified
    • Total reported losses amounting to almost EUR 31 million, where over 90% were linked to cyber crime
  • EMMA 4: December 2018
    • Law enforcement authorities from 30 countries with the support of over 300 banks, 20 bank associations and other private sector partners identified 26,376 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of over EUR 36.1 million
    • 1,504 money mules and 140 recruiters/organizers were identified leading to 168 individuals arrested and 837 criminal investigations were opened – many of which are still ongoing
  • EMMA 5: December 2019
    • Law enforcement authorities from 31 countries with the support of over 650 banks, 17 bank associations, and other private sector partners identified 7,520 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of over EUR 12.9 million
    • 3,833 money mules and 386 recruiters/organizers were identified leading to 228 individuals arrested and 1,025 criminal investigations were opened – many of which are still ongoing

As referenced above, the “#DontbeaMule” campaign has been developed to provide public awareness and prevention of the prevalence of money laundering through money mules worldwide. Europol has created -- for download -- different posters and flyers in 25 languages detailing how these criminals operate, how they can protect themselves and what to do if they become a victim.

For example, here are some key items to be aware of:

  1. Recruitment can be done through social media, online job forums, and even in person, on the street.
  2. At risk individuals are typically unemployed, young adults looking for a quick low effort way to make a buck, immigrants, and/or destitute.
  3. Two biggest warning signs of a money mule scheme promise instant cash and are job postings with limited, vague, and/or poorly developed advertisement. 
  4. Do your due diligence on any potential offer or opportunity. 
  5. Guard personal bank account information – only share with an individual you know, trust, and/or have vetted.

**REMEMBER: As a money mule, illegal money will travel through your bank account and thus you will be held responsible.**