Dirty Harry asks – do you want to be a money mule?

Earlier today, a Naked Security reader suggested that we should write a warning about “money mule” scams arriving by email. Most of us know perfectly well why replying to this sort of email is a bad idea. But not all of us do – and it can be tricky to explain scams to colleagues, friends and family who aren’t technically savvy.

Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to do so without sounding rude. It needs tough love, and that’s best left to an outsider. So let us tell it like it is, then you don’t have to!

The scam in this case claims to be a part-time job offer for the Swatch Group. It looks like this:

This is actually a very common way of running a scam. When all else fails, be 95% honest.

Everything is true, except the bit about Swatch and why the job was created. The mention of Swatch, a reputable brand, is an outright lie, which is supposed to give the email an aura of legitimacy.

You will receive “purchase orders”. You will “process payments”. You
will have bank money deposited in your account. You will send the money,
less your commission, on to the scammers – but by wire transfer, not by EFT (electronic funds transfer). And you will get to keep the commission, in all likelihood. That will keep you sweet, so you continue “working” at your “job”.

It will take about a month for the bank or the victims whose accounts have been siphoned off into yours to report you to the cops. Of course, the cops will come knocking to ask you to explain and to justify the legality of all the deposits into your account from the various “purchase orders” from “Swatch”. Which you will be unable to do.

And the bank and the cops will notice that you are not exactly an unwilling particpant, since you’ll have collected your commission every time. (Of course, you will have reported it to the taxation authorities, and will have paid all necessary sales, service and income taxes, so you won’t be caught out there, will you?)

And so:

* The transfers into your account will be reversed, because they were electronic.

* The wire transfers you sent onwards to the crooks will not be reversed, because they are the same as giving away cash.

* You will be under deep suspicion of laundering money, or at best of being unable to account for your earnings.

Because the EFTs can be reversed, you will be in the red by 90% of the value of the original deposits – that’s the original amount less the 10% commission you kept.

Because of the suspicion about your involvement, you are unlikely to keep your ill-gotten gains. That is, to put not too fine a point upon it, exactly what they are.

So that leaves you out of pocket by the whole amount you processed. The crooks keep their 90%, of course, because they can’t be traced, since you chose to remit them money as cash. The authorities confiscate your 10%, and the rightful owners have their 90% restored. You really are out of pocket for the lot. And that’s the good news.

The bad news, if you’re unlucky, is what comes next: investigation, arrest, criminal charges, arraignment, trial, conviction, sentencing and incarceration.

You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky?

Handguns firing the .44 Remington Magnum round are no longer the most powerful in the world, if indeed they ever were. But for illustrative purposes, they can be considered adequate. Take care with the volume if you watch the clip. The muzzle noise is very loud.