THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) warned the public about criminals recruiting “mules” to facilitate their illicit fund transfers, adding that such accomplices are liable under money-laundering rules.

The central bank said in an advisory Tuesday that money-laundering is a criminal offense under Republic Act. No. 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA).

In a public advisory Tuesday, BSP said any person who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of or at the direction of another person could be liable.

The practice of using “mules” originates with the drug industry, which recruits travelers to transport narcotics in their luggage or even within their own person.

“Criminals recruit mules to move money electronically through bank accounts, move physical currency, or assist the movement of money through a variety of other methods,” the central bank said.

According to the BSP, criminals have approached college students, job applicants, users of online dating services, and retirees.

“There are some individuals who are aware of their roles as money mules for illegally acquired funds, while others are victims of online scams who unknowingly serve as money mules,” BSP said.

Mules are typically asked to perform transactions such as wiring money to third-party bank accounts, withdraw cash, convert funds into a virtual currency, move funds into a prepaid debit card, or send funds through a money service business, the central bank said.

The BSP said some recruitment methods include messages promising “easy money,” requests to pass on money to an unknown individual, and job offers in which the purported employer asks to use the recruit’s personal account to process or transfer company funds.

“Do not accept any request to send or transfer money to/from your personal account, especially from unknown individuals or companies. If you think that you have received suspicious funds, do not touch the funds,” the BSP said, urging the public to report such approaches to their banks, financial service providers, or the police. — Luz Wendy T. Noble