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ST. LOUIS – Federal authorities are cautioning residents, particularly senior citizens, to avoid becoming an unwitting accessory to scammers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service launched a nationwide initiative against “money mules.”

The Department of Justice released a video on YouTube detailing a local case of an 81-year-old woman who was the victim of a romance scam and then opted to help her online boyfriend defraud others. Despite being warned by federal authorities, she kept assisting her faux beau and was ultimately arrested and charged. She pleaded guilty in Nov. 2021 to a pair of federal crimes.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, a money mule is somebody who assists someone perpetrating a fraudulent scheme by collecting money from victims and then forwarding those funds to the scammers themselves, many of whom are located in other countries.

These schemes are often tied to romance scams, in which a criminal will prey on people who are typically lonely and frequently online. Fraudsters will try to establish an online relationship and use that to coax people into helping them swindle others.

Over the last three months, a nationwide money mule crackdown resulted in 30 arrests and recovery of $3.7 million of illegally-obtained funds.

Source: Department of Justice