Like many Americans, Aaron Cole and his wife had been able to save up a nest egg through the rising value of their home. But after six years there and the births of their two children, the Oregon couple decided to sell and use the equity they had built up to purchase a slightly larger place.

After they had sold their current home, Aaron Cole received word that his title company would be in touch soon with the wire instructions for sending the down payment required to close on the new house. When an email arrived on December 4, 2018, from what appeared to be the title company, Aaron’s wife went to the bank and sent $122,850 to the account number provided in the message.

A few days later, the title company called to tell Aaron Cole it was time to wire over the down payment. Was he ready for the account information?


It only took the representative at the title company a few moments to figure out what had happened, but the Cole’s money was already gone. What happened to the Coles was due to the deliberate actions of the online criminals who compromised an email account to steal from them, but the criminals could not have carried out the scheme without the involvement of money mules.

Signs You May Be Acting as a Money Mule

  • You receive an unsolicited email or contact over social media promising easy money for little to no effort.
  • The “employer” you communicate with uses web-based email (such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or Outlook).
  • You are asked to open up a bank account in your own name or in the name of a company you form to receive and transfer money.
  • As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then “process funds” or “transfer funds” via a wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
  • You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
  • Your duties have no specific job description.
  • Your online companion, whom you have never met in person, asks you to receive money and then forward the funds to an individual you do not know.

Read the full story and more tips on protecting yourself here: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/money-muling-is-illegal-120419



Brown, Kimball, Hall

Aaron Cole and his family stand in front of the home that was nearly taken from them by online fraudsters and money mules. Photo courtesy of Melissa Toledo for WFG