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Money Mule Scams

What Are They & How to Avoid Them

A money mule scam is where you are sent money, then asked to send it somewhere else. Scammers use this tactic to launder money. Typically, the scammer will send you a check and ask you to purchase gift cards or wire some or all of the money back. 

Money mule scammers will try to contact you through online job ads, prize offers, or dating websites. By the time you find out the check was bad - you are already out that money and on the hook for it! 

How should you avoid falling victim to a money mule scam?

  • Never use your own bank account, or open one in your name, to transfer money for an employer
  • Never pay to collect a prize or move any money out of your "winnings"
  • Never send money to an online love interest, even if he or she sends you a check first

What should you do if you spot a money mule scam?

  • Break off contact with the scammers and stop moving money for them
  • Tell your bank/wire transfer company/gift card company right away
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission at


Why Is My Card Being Blocked?

Debit Card Fraud Prevention and the Algorithms That Help 

Debit card fraud. We are all aware that it is happening, and we all know the basic steps to preventing it: don’t give your card number out to a stranger, only use trusted websites for purchases, and never save your card information online. But what other ways are out there to help prevent card fraud?

Most financial institutions use a fraud system that actively blocks transactions it believes to be fraud. Here’s how it works: when you swipe your card at a terminal or type it in online, you see either “authorizing” or “processing”. During this seconds-long window, the computer system that runs the card network performs thousands of computations. It looks for things like signs of counterfeit cards, account balances, location of the transaction versus the address on the card, the type of transaction, etc. It uses this information to give a probability of fraud, and in general, when that probability is over 30%, it blocks the transaction.

Sometimes, legitimate transactions get blocked for various reasons. This can be frustrating, but remember that this system is for your protection, and it is nothing personal! (It is literally a computer making a decision based on data and probabilities!). It is estimated that card fraud losses total about $30 billion per year, and that total is only 5 – 10% of the actual attempted fraud – all the rest is blocked by fraud systems. In fact, without fraud systems in place, card systems wouldn’t be a viable payment option.

So, what else can you do to make sure that legitimate transactions make it through? Make sure to always keep your phone number, address, and email updated with the bank. If you plan on leaving town, call ahead and put a travel notice on your account. Finally, you can set up alerts with online and mobile banking to know when your debit card is being used, and to easily identify any fraudulent transactions. 

Want to learn more about Fraud, Cybersecurity, and other safety tips?

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