What first comes into your head when you hear the phrase ‘money mule’? For many, you would think of criminals involved in drugs, trafficking and terrorism.
According to Cifas, the UK's fraud prevention service, in 2017 its UK member banks identified 8,500 money mule accounts owned by people under the age of 21 - some owned by teenagers as young as 14. There was a 75 per cent rise in the misuse of bank accounts by 18 to 24 year olds in 2017, with 8,652 cases between January and September 2017. What's worrying is that young people under the age of 21 are the fastest growing age group being recruited by criminals to launder money in this way, up 36% on 2016.
Young people are often targeted and drawn in to this with ‘easy money’ schemes, being told that they will have a large amount of money transferred to their bank account. They then need to transfer this cash to another account, getting to keep a small percentage of this. Others respond to job advertisements, unaware that they are becoming involved in criminal activity
The organised criminal gangs behind money mule scams often use the proceeds of crime to commit other serious offences such as drug and people trafficking, sexual exploitation and terrorism.
The consequences of being a money mule include being blacklisted from all banks, meaning you will not have a bank account, this would make it very difficult to gain employment and credit for things such as mobile phone contracts or student loans. You can even face up to 14 years in prison if caught. By being a money mule, you are also enabling criminal activity.
How to prevent this
Do not give out your bank account details to anybody unless you know and trust them and be wary of job offers were all interactions and transactions are completed online. Be careful of offers to make easy money – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research any company that makes you a job offer and make sure their details are genuine and be wary of job offers from overseas, this can make it difficult to find out if they are legitimate. Also be guarded of job advertisements that are written in poor English and are full of spelling mistakes.
For further information, please visit www.moneymules.co.uk.
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