We are seeing money mule scams become more common in Australia, with victims being recruited by criminals through fake job ads and romance offers. We’ve put together some tips so you can keep yourself safe.

Movies and crime TV shows might be the place you’ve seen the work of ‘money mules’, but we’ve seen real-life examples of this illegal activity popping up in the Australian retail banking space in recent months.

Simply put, money mules will transfer the money of crime – such as fraud or scams – into a third party’s bank account to hide it from the authorities.

These scams are disguised as an employment opportunity or even a new romance, so unsuspecting victims sometimes get caught up in it all. Here’s how people get caught out and how you can stop it from happening to you.

How money mule scams work

Money mules are the middle-men that act on behalf of other criminals that are trying to hide or launder money derived from crime.

In order to cover their tracks, the money mules will try to recruit new people to get involved in the transfer of large sums of money.

A common way of new people being recruited is under the guise of a legitimate employment opportunity, where the employee can earn sums of money quickly by making transfers. 

Another common way is through a romance scam, where a potential partner will ask their online love interest to transfer money for them.

Shielding yourself from a money mule scam

It can be tricky to spot these scams, as they are quite sophisticated with the fraudsters creating legitimate-looking email addresses or websites, so they don’t have as big a chance of being detected – however even if they do a good job of disguising themselves there are often some red flags.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • The old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, definitely applies to money mule scams. Being offered large sums of money for minimal and easy work, is a big red flag, so beware.
  • If you get a job offer, make sure you do your research on the company. Things to look for are their ABN, how long the company has been registered and who the directors/owners are. Be extra cautious of businesses that are listed overseas.
  • If something feels a bit off, ask a trusted family member or friend for some advice. Another perspective is always handy as they may pick up on things you missed.
  • If you haven’t met someone in person, or you don’t know the person, don’t send them money.
  • Always protect your banking details and make sure you’re updating your passwords periodically.
  • Always think before you click any links in emails or text messages.

What if you think you’ve already been scammed?

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a money mule scam, it’s very important you report it to your bank as well as the police as soon as possible. The sooner you get in touch with your bank, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to stop the transactions. It is important to note however, some transactions aren’t able to be stopped – such as wire transfers.

After you speak with your bank, we’d recommend contacting IDCARE – which is the national identity and cyber support service – on 1800 595 160. As money mule scams can involve identity theft, IDCARE can help you come up with a plan if that is a risk you’re facing.

You can also report the scam to Scamwatch.


It is vital that you stay vigilant against Australian banking scams. By staying alert and recognising red flags, you can protect yourself against falling victim to these scammers.

Money mule scams are on the rise in Australia, so be wary of any “too good to be true” opportunities or offers and keep your banking details safe. Everyone is vulnerable to scams, so everyone needs information about how to identify and avoid being scammed.  You can find more information on scams awareness on our website.

Horizon Bank has a branch network spanning the NSW South Coast and Illawarra. Horizon Bank branch locations: Albion Park, Bega, Bermagui, Berry, Merimbula, Moruya, Nowra, Thirroul, Ulladulla & Wollongong.