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FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules"

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the sorry-about-that-nigeria-thing dept.

The Courts 215

An anonymous reader writes "A top FBI official said today that the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called 'money mules,' individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud, writes Krebsonsecurity.com. The author says he has interviewed more than 150 money mules, and find most fit into one of two camps: the not-so-bright, and those who suspect something's not right, but do it anyway. From the story: 'I find most mules fit into the latter group, and you can usually tell because these individuals often will admit to having set up a new account for the job separate from where they keep their meager savings or checking. When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest.'"

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215 comments

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What? (4, Funny)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186722)

You want me to cash this cheque and you will give me 5%? How can I lose?!?

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186752)

You know... if stupidity was illegal just about everyone would be prosecuted.

I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

Re:What? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32186878)

I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'd just as soon see someone who well-meaningly did something stupid get slammed even harder. At least those with ill intentions are predictable.

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187122)

I swear, we really need a -1 Retarded mod for comments like the parent.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187264)

I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'd just as soon see someone who well-meaningly did something stupid get slammed even harder. At least those with ill intentions are predictable.

I don't think that's a very good idea, but at least your heart's in the right place.

Oh, wait...

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186928)

I would say that Everyone would be prosecuted. We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw, or let your emotions get in the way of good reason... Sure a lot of people on slashdot will deny this. Because they built their reputation on seeming that they are smarter then everyone else... However in reality we all do stupid things... Especially if there is a pretty woman asking you to do it.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187024)

We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw

Like that right there, you didn't think that through before you posted did you?

Re:What? (5, Funny)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187158)

We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw

And then that thing throws some feces your way...

Re:What? (2, Funny)

DevConcepts (1194347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187304)

We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw,

Especially if there is a pretty woman asking you to do it.

Spelling Nazi's be damned! He just had a pretty woman ask him to post that!

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187650)

You know... if stupidity was illegal just about everyone would be prosecuted.

I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

Once upon a time that was true. I just read a column that talked about how over the last few years (5-20, I don't remember the time frame more closely than that) more and more laws don't take any notice of intent. I wish I could remember where I saw it.

Re:What? (0)

subanark (937286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186754)

If its too good to be true, it probably is.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32186862)

Hmmmm, "If it is X, it probably is X."

Profound!

I think you meant, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Re:What? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187088)

If it seems needlessly pedantic, it probably is Slashdot.

Re:What? (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187190)

No, no. In this case, if it is needlessly pedantic, it is Slashdot.

Re:What? (1)

EdtheFox (959194) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186768)

If it's counterfeit/forged/stolen you can lose big.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186914)

I'm surprised that these "money mules" actually get money from this operation. While looking for a job, I received these emails all of the time. I always thought the check was fake, and they were hoping you wired the money before the bank discovers it isn't legit.

The criminals aren't stupid (2)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186742)

They will find a way around a general crackdown on money mules. A lot of the east Europeans running these massive crime operations have MBAs and PhDs, and are untouchable because of political connections. They are certainly not stupid. Still, nice try.

Anyway, why leave a crackdown on money mules so late? The FBI aren't stupid either -- what advantage is there to not busting mules?

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (3, Informative)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186792)

Anyway, why leave a crackdown on money mules so late? The FBI aren't stupid either -- what advantage is there to not busting mules?

As the article says, there are two camps. And while the latter camp is dirty and know it, the former camp are retirees who answer "Make money in your spare time" ads or unemployed people desperate for work who think it's legitimate. And any crackdown will wind up dragging these people in, many who are going to be very sympathetic.

Who cares! I sure don't! Its a distraction. (0)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187866)

The FBI has far better things to put their time into with these smart criminals who destroy nations and wreak economies for profit... Recent events should have changed their focus away from petty stuff like some people who figure something they don't understand is going on but need the money in the BAD ECONOMY and are more temped than ever to not really question if they are doing anything that bad.

Again, the little guys will get nailed for minor stuff while the big ones go around almost with immunity to either repeat or inspire others... helping CREATE these little people as a result.

Its like going after the addicts instead of the dealers / suppliers.

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186810)

You needn't find a way around the crackdown. You just have to put a few more layers of confusion around it and you'll find enough people stupid and gullible to fall for it.

People are stupid. It's how we want them to be. If they wouldn't be stupid, they wouldn't be good consumers.

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187092)

"have MBAs and PhDs, and are untouchable because of political connections"

Who? Name some. Otherwise I call "bullshit".

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (2, Funny)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187214)

All the ones who get chicks. duh.

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187226)

You "call bullshit"? What are you? 14 years old? You're certainly under 25, your comment proves it. I bet you wanted to say "I call shenanigans" but couldn't spell it.

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187628)

oooooooh, internet tough-guy! watch out everyone!

Re:The criminals aren't stupid (2, Funny)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187246)

Don't you realize that most people who post on Craig's List are PhDs and MBAs from Europe and are above the law? It's a fact. Just accept it. This is Slashdot.

Yay! stupidity outlawed (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32186750)

...the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called "money mules," individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping...

See usually if your the victim of fraud, you're considered the victim, the FBI thinks it would be better to prosecute them however.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186834)

People are prosecuted for receiving stolen goods all the time. How is this much different?

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186992)

Only when there was reasonable expectation that the goods were stolen. If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187002)

Fine, let them lose their stuff. Off with their heads/hands/wallet/years, I say.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (3, Insightful)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187144)

If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

As the original article says, the majority of mules know they are doing something slightly shady. They just don't know exactly what. I think it's reasonable to prosecute and let the court decide the degree of culpability.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187148)

As the story says, the people responsible for this activity can be viewed as either "not too bright" or "it seems like they knew something wasn't right." My money (no pun intended) is on most of them being a member of Club I'll Pretend I Didn't Know This Was Wrong. There's bound to be some crossover between the two groups, but always remember: criminal stupidity is largely defined by actions, not the capacity to know right from wrong (yeah, there are some cases where someone can't be held criminally liable due to mental deficit, but it's far from the norm). Ignorance is an entirely different topic, and not something I believe most of these can claim if they got past kindergarten.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187210)

In this case, that's probably worse than the punishment. If you have to give back what was transferred into your account and don't get back what you transferred out via Western Union, then you're out of quite a lot of money.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187860)

Only when there was reasonable expectation that the goods were stolen. If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

Hell, sometimes you get to keep the stuff. I know a car dealer that purchased an exotic (acura NSX) from some dude. Turns out that "some dude" stole it from the real owner via fraud - gave the guy a bogus cashiers check and his bank sat on it for a month before telling him it was bogus. After tracking the car down at the behest of the original owner, the FBI 'declined' to confiscate the car, instead left it up to the local DA, who let the dealer keep it. The only way the real owner got compensated was because his insurance eventually paid for it because it was theft.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187170)

People are prosecuted for receiving stolen goods all the time. How is this much different?

There's a difference between stolen goods and stolen money. Imagine you own a store, and someone who (unknown to you) makes a large purchase after just having robbed a bank. In the transaction, you have received stolen money. Should you be prosecuted?

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187930)

These people aren't shopkeepers. They're being paid for virtually nothing aside from serving as a pass-through conduit for money. Please reference my other post for a more detailed reply [slashdot.org] on the matter.

receiving stolen goods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187608)

ever shop at a goodwill, a pawn shop, a thrift store, a yard sale, etc.?

What is Receiving Stolen Property? (5, Informative)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186846)

It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft . The crime is separate from robbery, extortion, or theft. Receiving stolen property is a crime in order to deter people from aiding or rewarding thieves by buying stolen property, and to deter theft in general. Receiving stolen property may be a misdemeanor or felony.

In Order to Be Convicted of this Crime, the Prosecution Must Show

        * That the property was in fact stolen
        * That you were aware, or should have known, that the property was stolen

http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/receiving-stolen-property.html [legalmatch.com]

Re:What is Receiving Stolen Property? (0)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187100)

It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft.

This, by the way, is why the folks that bought the iPhone are on the hook. The "finder" made no attempt to locate the actual owner, and instead sold it to that Web site for $5000. In other words, technically stolen property. The Web site knew or should have known, as reasonable people, that it was technically "stolen". They paid $5000 for it. Certainly not the act of a legitimate "news organization".

Re:What is Receiving Stolen Property? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187886)

The "finder" made no attempt to locate the actual owner,

.. except that the finder DID contact the actual owner - Apple. Next time, please RTFA, mkay?

Re:What is Receiving Stolen Property? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187386)

It is a crime to purchase or accept property that you know or believe was obtained through theft

But the property stolen isn't cash. It's TVs which are sold for cash. The cash is ill-gotten, but itself was not stolen, so isn't a stolen good. If they aren't laundering money from a bank robbery, then chances are they aren't laundering "stolen" money.

There may be crimes against such laundering, but they wouldn't be the laws against receipt and possession of stolen property.

Re:What is Receiving Stolen Property? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187834)

So anyone receiving tax dollars for goods or services is a criminal? Even government employees?

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (5, Informative)

tattood (855883) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186908)

Being a victim of fraud means that someone stole your identity and then took money out of your account. Money was taken from YOU. Money laundering, even if it is unknown to the person doing the laundering, is an accessory to a crime. You are helping them "clean" the money they have already stolen.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187362)

Wait, what is money laundering?

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187736)

The entire universe is an unknowing accessory to every crime.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187006)

That's like saying a drug dealer should not be prosecuted if their boss rips them off.

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (0, Troll)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187438)

He-haw! It is much easier to go after the victims. They usually reveal themselves, so they are easy to find. They want to tell everyone agbout it, so a confession is easy. And they are a snap to prosecute, remember they are Victims! Guilt? Not-guilty? "Not my job, besides, everybody is guilty of something. After all, we are born guilty with original sin and damned without redemption."

Re:Yay! stupidity outlawed (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187794)

They, like far too many in law enforcement long ago ceased to give a damn about any of truth, justice, or the American way. They care only for "busting dirtbags" where dirtbags = anyone not in their particular branch of law enforcement no matter how innocent and never includes people in their particular branch of law enforcement no matter how dirty.

They know damned well that a simple and brief conversation with an agent in their home will set well over 90% of these unwitting mules on the strait and narrow for life, but that doesn't show up on their stats, so they'll prosecute instead, practically guaranteeing that some of them will end up turning to harder crime.

But wait (5, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186814)

They're going to have to arrest every member of the federal reserve... And what the hell do they think Wall Street is?

Re:But wait (3, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186850)

legal money laundering

The government gets taxes out of it in most cases, so they don't mind so much what happens on wall street or who they steal it from.

financial fraud? (5, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186826)

So let's make sure we're all clear: The FBI, the federal US law enforcement, is cracking down on financial fraud. Great.

They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for (among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

Re:financial fraud? (5, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186858)

They're going for money laundering, i.e. schemes set up to hide the origin of illegally gained money. No matter what crap banks pull with their money, it's at least legally gained and not relevant for money laundering investigations. Checking financial markets is a different department.

Re:financial fraud? (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187142)

They're going for money laundering

Money laundering? Legalize victimless activities and the "money laundering" problem goes away. As do most of the other problems associated with those activities.

Re:financial fraud? (2, Informative)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187290)

Money laundering? Legalize victimless activities and the "money laundering" problem goes away. As do most of the other problems associated with those activities.

What an astute observation. Legalize identity theft, online fraud, and credit card theft, becuase that's what this article is about, and that's where the money mules are an issue. What? The hell you say! You didn't read the article before opening your big mouth and suggesting a moronic solution? I'm shocked! I have grown to expect so much more from Slashdot intellectuals. I'm disappointed.

Re:financial fraud? (0)

dissy (172727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187414)

Money laundering? Legalize victimless activities and the "money laundering" problem goes away. As do most of the other problems associated with those activities.

What an astute observation. Legalize identity theft, online fraud, and credit card theft,

...
Just the very fact you think identity theft, fraud, and credit card theft has NO VICTIMS - That pretty much rules out any weight to your opinions or comments on the subject I'd say

Re:financial fraud? (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187836)

And the fact that you can't see facetiousness pretty much rules out any weight to your opinions or comments on the subject, I'd say.

Re:financial fraud? (1, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187558)

What? The hell you say! You didn't read the article before opening your big mouth and suggesting a moronic solution? I'm shocked! I have grown to expect so much more from Slashdot intellectuals. I'm disappointed.

Ummmm, hi. I noticed you have a really low uID, so I needed to ask, have you been asleep for a very long time? Maybe a secret undercover flight to say... Mars? Perhaps a little time spent frozen in a glacier and only recently woke up?

People don't read articles on /. anymore. Sorry to burst that bubble.

Re:financial fraud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187658)

RTFA? He didn't even read the summary - "stolen through online banking fraud" doesn't sound victimless to me, either.

It's not "money laundering" (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187978)

The original money doesn't exist. The check they're asked to cash is ALWAYS bogus.

This is bank fraud. It may involve check kiting [wikipedia.org] , where the original cheque is from a real - but overdrawn - account, or it may just involve fake cheques printed to order, but it;s still cheque fraud, not money laundering.

And the vast majority of people who "get taken in" are just greedy slobs who want to believe so badly that they can actually make $500 for taking a $10,000 cheque and cashing it that they lie to themselves and say "if worse comes to worse, I can always say I didn't know."

Re:financial fraud? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186956)

Whose says they aren't doing that as well? I'm pretty sure they are, just ask Jack Abramoff

Re:financial fraud? (5, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186958)

Hey Hey Hey... you know? When it's 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, and you've got a big fishing trip planned for the weekend, and you just want to see your wife after a long day of paperwork, and your boss comes in and says:

Hey buddy, I got a project for you. I want you to bust some of these financial fraud guys. We have some names you can start with here. On the first list, there are suspected money mules, and on the second list are a bunch of insanely-powerful superbankers that, upon learning of your very existence, will hire a small country of thugs to make sure you and your family never sleep again. Just try to get at least a few of these guys contacted by the end of the day, and give me a status report before you leave. Great. Awesome. [pat on the back]

Which list will you end up "getting around to" before the clock strikes 5?

Re:financial fraud? (3, Interesting)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187240)

This makes sense.

A high-profile well-publicized investigation may make people more aware of the tactics that fraudsters use to recruit mules and could decrease the pool of people available purposes of laundering ill-gotten gains. It also serves the purpose of potentially scaring off mules that are very aware that they are laundering money for someone else but are nervous of being investigated by the Feds...

Re:financial fraud? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187892)

The investigation makes sense, and I'm fairly sure if federal agents show up at these people's doors, they will never take part in any such scheme again. They will probably be more than happy to share what little they know about their employers.

So why prosecute unless they do it again (proving they are knowingly participating in crime)?

As for the two camps, it's a far cry form wondering if it might be an advance check scam, so setting up a separate bank account to see how it goes and being sure it's money laundering. Perhaps once a few transactions go through, these people decide it is actually legit. Yes, they're naive for thinking that, but that's no crime. If the FBI shows up at their door, they certainly won't think it's legit again.

Draconian shit! (0, Flamebait)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187390)

This is how it is now in the land of the free, why do you think that we have the worlds largest prison system (larger by a HUGE amount)?

Gotta keep those big prison industries happy and convince all the gun toting, flag waving, tough-on-crime,tea-partying electorate that them's is bad people!

Who's got the money to buy protection? (3, Insightful)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187418)

>They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

>But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with
>enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the
>banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for
>among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and
>on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

Well of course! The dumb people don't have money for attorneys and politicians. So the FBI will go after the dumb people and then claim they did something about the problem.

Re:financial fraud? (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187614)

This should be obvious, but since you may not realize it, high frequency trading is not illegal. Money laundering is. It is the job of the FBI to go after people for doing illegal things. There is nothing wrong going on here.

If you don't like it, complain to your congressperson to make a new law. Then high frequency trading will be illegal. And the FBI will prosecute it. And you can be happy.

Re:financial fraud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187734)

um, because they have the resources (read=money) to defend themselves. We the proletariat, don't.

Re:financial fraud? (2, Insightful)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187882)

Correct.

It's the same reason why the police like to bust pot smokers. It's easy and not dangerous.

Re:financial fraud? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187916)

But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading?

High frequency trading is good for the market. Just as is short selling. (I throw that in there because many who dislike the former also knee-jerk about the later).
High frequency trading has significantly increased liquidity, putting many "market makers" (trading houses who guarantee to purchase and sell a specific company's shares) out of business. Do to their unique position of being able to dictate bid and ask prices for low-volume stocks, market makers were widely reviled as a major source of abuse of small investors.

Everything in life has its upside and downside, but high frequency trading has significantly reduced a major type of institutionalized rent-seeking, making the markets over all a more level playing field.

Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind! (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186840)

Either we want stupid people because they're easier to control. Or we want smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. Make up your mind government! It's unfair to cultivate stupidity and teach everyone that you're better off stupid (and if your stupidity causes you harm, sue someone because he didn't protect you from being stupid enough to hurt yourself, while at the same time being "too stupid to do it" is a valid excuse, while knowing "how to do it" can be incriminating) and then go and punish them for doing what's expected from them!

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186938)

"smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. "

Intelligence has little to do with getting conned.

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187114)

So you mean that it's equally easy (in average) to con somebody with IQ 90 and somebody with IQ 140? Sure, somebody with IQ 140 or higher can be conned and I'm sure there's anecdotally evidence for that, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

Of course to understand the difference between the general rule and "it can happen" you probably need to have an IQ in three digits.

(by the way I'm using IQ as a proxy for "intelligence" only as a shortcut, I know there are problem with this measure)

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187402)

that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

No, sometimes it's easier. It's always easier to con the guy who thinks he's "too smart to get conned" or "it won't happen to me."

Conning people is hard work anyhow. I'd rather work on someone smarter because it's easier to stroke their egos and fluster them with a storm of words. Stupid people is just a matter of bullying them. Sometimes it works, something they get pissed.

Also, conning 1 smart person usually pays off better then conning multiple stupids.

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187528)

So you mean that it's equally easy (in average) to con somebody with IQ 90 and somebody with IQ 140? Sure, somebody with IQ 140 or higher can be conned and I'm sure there's anecdotally evidence for that, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

Probably easier to con a smart person than a dumb one. Just convince the smart guy that he's conning you, and he's ripe for plucking....

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187562)

You probably assume that dumb people know they are dumb...

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (1)

L3370 (1421413) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187820)

Conning smart people isn't necessarily easier or harder... It just requires a different approach.

Talk to professional salesmen in the auto or finance industries. The good ones will tell you that a customer (victim) is powerless in the hands of an expert closer.

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187124)

It is a good thing he said "smart" instead of "intelligent".

Hopefully you are smart enough to recognize the difference...

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (2, Informative)

krebsonsecurity (1714228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187222)

Exactly. I've interviewed doctors, lawyers and even people with a finance background that were mules. Not saying all of them believed they were doing the right thing, just that it's not dim bulbs involved in this.

Re:Huh? Have the cake or eat it, make up your mind (2, Insightful)

ndogg (158021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187380)

Yup, and many magicians will tell you that the more intelligent people are easier to fool.

Funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32186860)

I just got a spam email "job offer," where having a bank account was a job requirement. It makes me wonder whether I've been solicited to commit a crime or whether I've just been spammed by the FBI.

Bank accounts (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186910)

"I find most mules fit into the latter group, and you can usually tell because these individuals often will admit to having set up a new account for the job" separate from where they keep their meager savings or checking. When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest."

I keep separate a bank account for activities like PayPal. Does that mean that if PayPal is found to be fraudulent I'm going to be presumed to have known?

Re:Bank accounts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187054)

I keep separate a bank account for activities like PayPal. Does that mean that if PayPal is found to be fraudulent I'm going to be presumed to have known?

Or how about execs that keep a separate credit-card for business expenses or a separate bank account to cover expenses until they get reimbursed? Seems they're picking on the wrong people.

Re:Bank accounts (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187316)

No, if you'd read the blurb that you just quoted, if you got a Paypal account to use for your work, and your work turned out to be fraudulent, then yes, you would have been presumed to have known.

Do you work for Paypal? Then yes, your hypothetical situation is correct.

Maybe they could also (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186922)

arrest all the people that worked at Enron. Clearly if you boss is doing something criminal all the employees should go to jail.

Re:Maybe they could also (-1, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187010)

And everyone who took George W. Bush's $300 tax-cut bribes while his gang was setting up a $2 trillion money pump in Iraq and a $700 billion accounting-error generator on Wall Street.

Procecute "unwittingly roped"? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32186982)

How are they going to do that legally or morally? If you got duped and thought you were doing something legal, its not your fault.

Re:Procecute "unwittingly roped"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187634)

I often wonder how often organized crime is actually using the "Money Mule" format as a layer of deniability. Eg: Mob boss needs to clear some money. Henchman blasts out some money mule spam. Known independent mob contractor responds to said spam and launders the money. If he gets caught, he pleads the victim, while also helping to obscure any connection back to mob boss.

This doesn't apply ... (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187000)

To my new friend in Nigeria who needs to move money out of the country does it?

Re:This doesn't apply ... (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187152)

No, because that is a different type of fraud.

This is the one where your bank sends someone an email saying they need to update their security details or something. They are directed to a fake bank website were they are asked to enter their login details.

The phisher then logs in to the bank using these details, and wires some money to the money mule. The money mule then sends it by Western Union to the phisher.

The phishing victim notices that all his money has disappeared and complains to the bank. The bank then reverses the transfer leaving the money mule's account overdrawn. Or maybe if you are very lucky, the phishing victim doesn't notice, and the transfer doesn't get reversed.

A slightly different version of it uses stolen credit card details. They order high value equipment using the phishing victim's credit card and have it shipped to the mule. The mule then forwards it to the phisher, or probably another mule in a different country.

Re:This doesn't apply ... (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187348)

This would apply to someone in the US who your friend asks you to wire the money to, first. That's how a lot of these scams work. You give them your info, they give it to someone in the US who transfers the money into their account, withdraws it, then wires the money overseas, or to some other money mule to wire overseas. I'd read in another article that they use developmentally disabled adults, because they're more honest and competent to make these sorts of transactions.

How about catching the big crooks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187020)

Let's spend a bunch of time on the little guys while the big fish run free.

-The money used to fund the 911 attackers was never tracked back further than to say it came from Saudi Arabia.
-The fraudsters who perpetrated the Wall St. meltdown are still walking free.

Now we can feel safer that unwitting people who cashed checks for usually much less than $10,000 are being persecuted.

The trickle up theory of crime fighting (4, Insightful)

ZeBam.com (1790466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187086)

Go after the little guy to stop the big-time mobsters. Oh yeah, sure, that'll work. Why didn't we think of that before? Put all the small time drug dealers in jail and it will put the big guys out of business. Put all the small-time incompetent terrorists who light their shoes or underwear on fire and put the big guys out of business. Put all the Abu Ghraib prison guards in jail and stop Pentagon Brass and civilian military leadership from being war criminals. Put Fabulous Fabrice on trial and stop finance industry mobsters from raping the planet.

Yeah. What a good idea. Get some good headlines at least.

Re:The trickle up theory of crime fighting (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187618)

Because criminal organizations are like the hydra. You take out the leader and you just end up with two criminal organizations run by new heads.

The only way to win is to take out the metaphorical legs.

The most interesting part (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187126)

I find it funny that no-one ever reports the most interesting part of these scams. Most of the time they money they are laundering is stolen by botnets. These same botnets often send spam that includes some amount of recruitment of money mules. Some of these "work from home" scams involve people putting up posters and yard signs to recruit money mules. The entire scam is facilitated and organized by an automatic distributed computer program. It's like a huge ants nest. The workers don't really know what they're doing, but the network maintains their motivation to keep doing it. The strangest part of all is that often these systems are so resilient that they keep going long after the head has been cut off by law enforcement. Somewhere there's probably accounts bursting with money funneled there by unthinking dupes acting as part of an unconscious mechanism.

Why not just *keep* the money? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187460)

Why wouldn't you just keep the money? The bad guys are half a world a way and have no way to call the cops as if they would to begin with.

Whenever I've heard of these kinds of scams (including a related one involving physical goods they send you and you ship overseas) I always wondered why people were so honest and actually went through with it instead of just keeping the money.

It'd be like Bernie Madoff walking up to you with a suitcase of cash, asking you to go deposit it at some bank across town. Yeah, sure, Bernie. I'll call you when I'm done.

Re:Why not just *keep* the money? (1)

mrbene (1380531) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187598)

00:00 - Money transferred into your bank account
01:00 - You take money out of your bank account
01:30 - You send 92% of the money via Cash Transfer service
03:00 - Fraud is reported by the actual victim
04:00 - The 100% money is un-transferred from your bank account, leaving you with -92% of it.

If you keep the money, you're not ahead - but at least you're not behind. However, at 01:30, you've not yet been burned, and are seeing a whole heap of money, so the greedy voice is saying "Do the transfer so the free money doesn't stop!"

In short, the promise of this being a long term, low effort thing is what drives people to be "honest".

Re:Why not just *keep* the money? (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187632)

Because the bad guys are usually organized crime with an international presence?

Re:Why not just *keep* the money? (1)

mx_mx_mx (1625481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187738)

Greed I guess.
They don't want to loose their new 'job'

Re:Why not just *keep* the money? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187994)

That's an excellent argument that these people REALLY DO think it's a legit work from home job. They actually think the people they're working for are a legitimate business and so it would be wrong to rip them off.

You Mean These (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32187500)

Criminals [goldmansachs.com] ?

Yours In Smolensk,
Kilgore T.

I'm ambivalent about this (3, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32187814)

I'm ambivalent about this. Clearly a crime is being committed, and that needs to be pursued, but the mule is often unaware that they are committing one. This is especially bad in a down economy, when desperate people are more likely to sign up.

A good friend of mine was so proud that she had finally found a job, and one she could do at home (bonus) and wouldn't be kicked out of her apartment after all. It was difficult to tell her that she was being hired to be a money mule and was almost certainly laundering money from illegal enterprises.

Often, these people aren't being dishonest or lazy, they're honestly trying to make rent. (Cross-reference to stories about low income jobs being hit hardest in this economy.) None of us here would fall for it, but they're not trying to hire IT professionals; they're trying to hire out-of-work nonprofessionals who don't have the education or life experience to know better.

Nailing a few mules won't really affect anything except arrest records (for those keeping score). There will always be more naive people to be suckered in, and the real criminals continue their operations. It seems like a better strategy would be for law enforcement to take the mule into their confidence and use them to trap the real criminals in return for amnesty. But that would be too much like real work, wouldn't it?

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