If the financial institution flags the account, it may be closed, in which case the conman either tells the victim to open a new account or turns to the next victim to groom.

Another scenario in recruiting mules: the conman claims to be a European citizen or an American living abroad.

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This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence.

The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support.

He didn’t ask her for money, so there was no reason for a red flag to go up about being financially gouged. There was, instead, a suitcase containing what she thought was a thick contract with lots of trade secrets in it. It actually contained three bags of cocaine sewn into the lining.

Customs agents found the drugs at the airport, and she wound up spending the next 2.5 years in prison.

The FBI has some helpful tips to save yourself from being swindled and/or turned into a mule.

One such: most crooks don’t use their own photographs online, instead stealing an image from a social media account and passing it off as their own.

And by “suitors,” I mean romance-scamming crooks, of course.

Left-wing, right-wing, dairy-intolerant, beard-abhorring? And now, a rising trend: there are more and more suitors looking to tick off a box that would read “mule” if it were that easy to find lovelorn patsies to launder money or run drugs for them.

The poor woman’s story fits what the FBI is seeing more of: an actor spends a few months building a relationship with a victim, then asks for money or electronics …

or to open a bank account under the guise of sending or receiving funds, in the case of recruiting unsuspecting mules.

The following year – 2018 – that number skyrocketed by more than 70%: the number of victims filing complaints increased to more than 18,000, and they reported more than 2 million in losses.