An online company hired my friend as an account assistant. They told him they are a business consulting firm, and that they need an account assistant in every area. His job is the following:

  1. Some companies send money to my friend's account by inter-account e-transfer.

  2. My friend needs to withdraw the money, go to a bitcoin ATM and send the money to our dealers, because they are a wholesale company and their dealers receive the money only in bitcoin.

My friend is thinking about it and wants to do the job. He wants my opinion. That's why I asked the question, because I don't want my friend to face any problems.


Update: My friend already made one transaction. He is afraid. What is his next step?

  • When you say inter-account e-transfer, do you mean Canada's Interac e-Transfer? – Nayuki Aug 5 at 1:59
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    Possible duplicate of Is this money transfer a legal way to get money? – Qsigma Aug 5 at 9:13
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    See also: money.stackexchange.com/questions/67941/… - the fact that it's using bitcoin versus a bank account makes no difference to the legality of doing this, which I explain in some detail in one of the answers (and it's worth reading the other answers that explain why it's a scam, too). – Jules Aug 8 at 21:50
  • How much money was exchanged during the first transfer? – Freiheit Aug 10 at 12:51
  • By "my friend's account" do you mean the company account he manages for them, or his personal account? If he used his personal account... that won't end well - there is no good reason for a legit company to have him use his personal account (and LOTS of good reasons to not). – J. Chris Compton Aug 10 at 14:46

It's a scam. It's called a money mule. Typically the way this will work is that the scammers will make a fraudulent money transfer into your friend's account. Your friend will convert the funds into Bitcoin and send it off to the scammers. After a few days or weeks, the bank will figure out that the original transfer was fraudulent and come after your friend's bank account to be reimbursed. There's no way to reverse the Bitcoin transfer, so your friend will be held responsible for the missing money.

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    If it was me? I'd contact the bank, alert them to the possible fraud, and make arrangements to pay them back. A more cautious person might consult a lawyer before talking to the bank. A lot of this depends on how much money is involved, and local law enforcement. If we're talking about $50 then the bank is probably going to be fine with just getting their money back. If we're talking about $5000 which your friend can't pay back, then the bank may go to the local police. – Charles E. Grant Aug 4 at 18:52
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    @ashifantor Your friend is a money mule. – David Schwartz Aug 5 at 0:37
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    This misses the central point that Brythan's answer covers: this is likely a form of money laundering, and as such, your friend is doing something punishable by prison in many jurisdictions. Also, that might make him subject of blackmail by organized crime. CALL YOUR FRIEND NOW, make him stop reacting! – Marcus Müller Aug 5 at 1:36
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    @MarcusMüller money laundering is a remote possibility but seems dubious to me. Money launderers typically go for higher volume transactions. Laundering $100 or even $1000 at a time involves too much overhead. My bet is that this is a straight forward grift, which is as common as dirt. – Charles E. Grant Aug 5 at 3:42
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    @CharlesE.Grant Don’t neglect the likelihood that the police will treat the friend as a victim rather than a criminal. I can’t help thinking that all this talk of how the friend is a money-laundering scumbag who could go to jail for years and years is just playing into the scammers’ hands by encouraging victims to keep very quiet. – David Richerby Aug 5 at 8:14

It’s a money-laundering scam, and your friend is likely to get into serious trouble, and possibly lose a lot of money, if he takes part.

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    Prison is also not out of the question if OP's friend is deemed a party to a money-laundering scheme. – ApplePie Aug 5 at 2:21
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    @ApplePie I think that's what Mike meant when he wrote "serious trouble". – Marcus Müller Aug 6 at 19:34
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    @Robert It seems highly likely that the money transferred in is in some way dodgy, whether it’s the proceeds of crime, fraudulently obtained, or whatever. – Mike Scott Aug 8 at 6:22
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    @Robert The laundering surrounds the small part that the OP's friend plays. The untraceable criminal money goes to the friend. The friend turns it into Bitcoin, yes, but that'll end up being exchanged back into real money at some point down the line, money that can be spent on drugs and rocket launchers and whatnot. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 8 at 13:02
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    ... victim is the only identifiable person to have handled the money (which is presumably directly traceable to some illegal activity), and is therefore held responsible for the laundering. Victim has broken the law (even if he wasn't aware that what he was doing was money laundering, he has engaged in a money transfer scheme for profit, which has regulatory requirements that involve holding identification for the people whose money you are moving, and undertaking courses to help identify money laundering schemes and notifying the government if you suspect any such scheme. – Jules Aug 9 at 23:40

Your friend should go to a lawyer. The lawyer can then make a deal with the government where your friend testifies as to the activities. Your friend may be asked to communicate with his "employer" to get them to do more illegal things. Or required to turn over his email, etc. to the authorities so that they can communicate with the "employer" and get them to give additional information.

If your friend cannot afford a lawyer, then the other alternative is to go to the police directly.

The big thing about this that screams scam is that the money is deposited into your friend's account. A real company would buy bitcoin from its own accounts. Processing through a third party account is either money laundering (your friend could go to jail) or a scam (your friend may lose the money withdrawn to bitcoin). Or both, your friend could be broke and in jail.

There is also a risk that they money is obtained illegally and the deposits into the account can be reversed.

Under no circumstances should your friend continue to participate without informing law enforcement.

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    It's going to be hard to get the police interested in investigating this since the criminals likely live in another country from the intended victim and unless he actually lost money, there's been no crime committed yet and no victim. Even with email records, etc it's going to be nearly impossible to track them down. Maybe if he's lucky he can find a computer crime task specialist that's interested, but if the scammers live outside the country, it seems unlikely that they'll spend the effort to pursue the case unless there's a lot of money involved. – Johnny Aug 5 at 6:07
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    @Johnny: It depends on the jurisdiction, but in most places money laundering is a crime regardless of the amount. Also if there is a threshold value and an intention on someone's part to exceed it then this is a crime already in progress. – Paul Johnson Aug 5 at 12:15
  • If the friend cannot afford a lawyer, DO NOT CONTACT THE POLICE. Your friend should tell the "company" that he/she "quits", and forget about the whole ordeal. If a crime has been committed, the police will be looking for someone to punish. – Sam yesterday

This is definitely a scam

Most electronic fund transfers are reversible, whereas bitcoin transactions are final. Your friend will successfully receive the money and transfer it as bitcoin. When the original transfer is reversed for being fraudulent (or even worse proceeds from an illegal act) the money will be reclaimed from your friend's account. They will be out whatever amount was sent as bitcoin.

Even worse the money from the original transfer could be associated with illegal activity, and your friend is now into money laundering and could end up in jail! This scenario might actually result in friend making money, but the longer they do it the more they will seem to be part of it than a hapless victim.

This is not a job, it is a scam.

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    Presumably the payments are being made from stolen credit cards. – Valorum Aug 6 at 6:49
  • @Valorum That is certainly a possibility, but my understanding is that there are lots of different scams! – Bailey S Aug 6 at 7:06
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    Sure, but this seems the most likely. They might also be processing payments from blackmail, illegal drug payments, payments to contract killers, etc. – Valorum Aug 6 at 10:03
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    @Valorum can you actually make bank transactions solely using a credit card? I think it is more likely the perpetrators have access to a few bank accounts they're trying to drain as fast as possible. – fonix232 Aug 7 at 9:14
  • @fonix - In a word, yes. If you hack the right database you can collect card details by the tens of thousands. Many overseas (non-uk) cards can be used to make direct cash transfers. – Valorum Aug 7 at 11:48

As other people already replied: it's a scam.

Now you ask: "what can he do?" He needs to alert the authorities, explain that he was unaware of the fraud, and ask the police what he can do to help stop it. The police may be able, with his help, to stop it and arrest the scammers. At a minimum, he can escape legal prosecution against himself.

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    His friend should NOT hand himself over to the police for them to rake over the coals without first consulting a lawyer. The police are not ever your friend, ever. They exist to incarcerate people and collect evidence of crimes, nothing more. They MIGHT decide it's not worth their time to put together a dubious case against OP's friend, but they might not. Even if they would eventually fail to demonstrate that OP's friend had intent to commit a crime, the legal process to get there is expensive even for innocent people. – Adonalsium Aug 8 at 15:00
  • Downvoted because @user suggests contacting the authorities. That would be a good idea if OP's friend wants to go to prison. – Sam yesterday

The money is real but the source is not legitimate. Typically those are bank transfers from accounts with stolen credentials. If and when the owners of those accounts notify the police, the money will get returned and your brother's bank will demand covering the debt. There will also be criminal investigations with regard to money laundering against your brother.

It is also likely that the bank will cancel his account since your brother signed an agreement that he will use his account only to conduct business in his behalf rather than that of others (exactly because of money laundering laws) and he clearly has wittingly breached the conditions of his account.

He needs to come clean with both his bank and the police and ask for further instructions. If he is very, very lucky, that first transfer was a test balloon that actually won't blow up since its main purpose was to prime your brother for larger work. Then he might even get off reasonably unscathed if he acts now.

This is a scam. There is no bitcoin ATM. The company will take your friends money and run.

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    I agree that it’s a scam, but there is such a thing as a Bitcoin ATM. For example, I have seen one at Piccadilly Circus Underground station in London. – Mike Scott Aug 4 at 17:09
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    I agree, this is definitely a scam, but there are bitcoin ATM. I walk by one on my way to work every day. – Charles E. Grant Aug 4 at 17:09
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    my friend already do one transaction now what can he do ?he just afraided now – ashif antor Aug 4 at 18:29
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    @ashifantor What exactly did your friend do. Did he get money into his Bank account and he has purchased bitcoins – Dheer Aug 5 at 1:29
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    @Mike, Charles, etc. Bitcoin ATMs are not Automated Teller machines (ATMs) in the normally understood way - they don't allow you to withdraw fiat banknotes from a fiat-denominated personal account at a registered/regulated retail-bank. However the term "Bitcoin ATM" is well understood by anyone familiar with cryptocurrencies. – RedGrittyBrick Aug 5 at 17:10

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