Money Laundering Mules, Tinder & the Power of Reverse Image Searches

I’ll be as transparent as possible here in letting you know that I have never used a dating app. I met my wife the old-fashioned way — face to face. The Tinder world we live in blows my mind. What may blow the mind of some Tinder and other dating app users is that there is a trend taking place now within these apps where criminals are turning ‘dating prospects’ into money laundering mules. Not only are these mules victims of digital abuse, in the eyes of the law they are considered accessories and could face money laundering charges in the event of an arrest.

When people say certain things are dangerous, double-edged swords, this is what they mean. You get cut two ways, mostly because the victim or victims of money laundering want justice across the board. Romance scams are hot right now too. According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams were responsible for over $340 million in losses in 2020, which represents a 50% increase from 2019. Certainly, the COVID pandemic had an effect on the number of scams being perpetrated, with many linked to stolen CARES funds.

Regardless, all of that money needs to be laundered for it to have any value. Enter the dating apps and the new dating game of, ‘groom a mule’ invented by cyber robbers, where the crooks engage in relationship building with unsuspecting victims. This tactic is officially known as ‘grooming’ and is defined by the FBI as the act of, “preparing a victim to conduct fraudulent activity on their behalf through communications intended to develop a trust relationship.”

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Richard Paxton

CEO of the Alacer Group. Sharing the latest news in financial crimes and best practices that enable financial institutions to prevent money laundering.

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