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The head of the FBI’s cyber crime section said that the bureau in planning to prosecute money mules – people who send funds stolen by online banking fraud to criminal organizations outside the U.S.

Patrick Carney, the acting chief of the FBI Cyber Crime section made the announcement at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation symposium in Arlington, Va., according to the Wall Street Journal and security blogger Brian Krebs, who writes the Krebs On Security blog.

Krebs piece here: “FBI Promises Action Against Money Mules”

WSJ piece here: “FBI Targets Cyber ‘Mules'”

Money mules are usually recruited through on-line employment sites and work-at-home schemes. It is believed that most know they are participating in illegal actions, although some are dupes.

The mules are an essential link in bank fraud schemes. They receive fund transfers from hacked accounts and transfer the money to organized crime groups that often operate in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Russia.

Last fall, the FBI said such bank fraud was responsible for $40 million in losses just to small to mid-sized companies in the last six years. They said of the 205 cases they had investigated, the thieves had attempted to steal $85 million but security measures stopped the transfer of all but the $40 million. The thefts boomed in 2009.

In the UK, losses for all categories of enterprises totaled £59.7 million ($103 million USD) in 2009, according to the UK Cards Association.

Tom Kelchner