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Aussie cops warn uni students: Don’t become a money mule

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) takes the lead on a campaign to keep students from moving money for drug and cyber gangs.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 20 Feb 2024
Aussie cops warn uni students: Don’t become a money mule
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The AFP-led Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre is rolling out a new campaign to warn university students of the risks of becoming a money mule.

According to the AFP, criminals are on a recruitment drive for money mules and use job ads and social media to recruit students looking for quick and easy cash.

“Often, the only requirements for the job are access to a mobile phone or computer and an Australian bank account to receive and transfer funds at the direction of the criminal group – this is a major red flag,” said AFP Detective Superintendent Tim Stainton in a statement.


Money mules are used to move money made through crime – often drug- and cyber-related. The mule receives the proceeds of crime in their account and then immediately transfers it to a third account, effectively laundering the money. Mules are paid a small commission for their time.

The police campaign will be rolled out to 39 universities around Australia and in seven different languages to help target international students. Campaign materials include a digital information pack, social media advertising, and other marketing tools for universities. It even has a hashtag: #DontBeAMule

“If a job opportunity seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t legitimate. If you are being offered significant sums of money to just move money through your bank account, then it is likely you are committing a criminal offence,” Superintendent Stainton said.

“You can do your due diligence by researching the business to see if they have an online presence, check if they have legitimate contact details and find out if they’re based in Australia.”

The job ads these criminal syndicates use are for payment processing agents or money transfer agents. Criminals are also approaching students directly, both in person and online, with job offers.

“Money mules may try and convince themselves that what they’re doing is a victimless crime which gives them a quick paycheck, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” Superintendent Stainton said.

“Moving money for criminals gives these syndicates access to their dirty money and helps fund future criminal ventures, like drug trafficking, child exploitation, cyber crime and cyber-enabled fraud.

“By being a money mule, unwittingly or not, you are complicit in a money laundering offence for which you can be arrested and charged by the police. Money laundering offences attract significant penalties, including jail time.”

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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