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Massive increase in young people acting as money mules

November 27th 2017

New data released today shows a sharp rise in the number of 18 to 24-year olds who are letting their bank accounts be used to transfer the proceeds of crime.

For Get Safe Online's information and advice on money muling, click here.

The statistics reveal a 75%increase in the misuse of bank accounts involving 18 to 24-year olds during the first nine months of 2017, compared to the same period last year. The most common example of this is when an individual acts as a ‘money mule’, which means they allow their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds.

    -  75% rise in the misuse of bank accounts by 18 to 24-year olds in past year, with 8,652 cases between January and September 2017

    -  Acting as a money mule will result in a bank account being closed, making it hard to obtain student loans, mobile phone contracts or other financial products

    -  Cifas and Financial Fraud Action UK launch ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign to deter young people from becoming money mules, including a hard-hitting new film on the dangers

The data has been released by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, to coincide with the launch of a joint campaign with Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), the body that leads the fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. The ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign aims to deter young people – in particular, students – from becoming money mules.

Young people and students are particularly vulnerable, as fraudsters know they are often short of cash. Criminals may approach them with what looks like a genuine job offer, asking them to receive money into their bank account and transfer it onto someone else, keeping some of the cash for themselves.

According to the figures, there were 8,652 ‘misuse of facility’ cases amongst 18 to 24-year olds between January and the end of September this year. This represents 35%of all cases during that period.

The 2017 figures also demonstrate a dramatic rise in money mule fraud over the last five years, with cases involving 18 to 24-year olds more than doubling since 2013.

Through ‘Don’t Be Fooled’, FFA UK and Cifas want to highlight that, if you become a money mule, you are involved in money laundering. Banks have sophisticated systems in place to track fraudulent transactions and, when a person is caught misusing their account in this way, it will be closed, and they will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere. Having no bank account makes it hard to obtain student loans, mobile phone contracts or other financial products. A person convicted of money laundering could face up to 14 years in prison.

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. Cifas has developed a new film to bring these consequences to life.

Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing, at UK Finance - the organisation behind FFA UK - said: “Money muling is money laundering and criminals are using young people as mules in increasing numbers. We know that students are particularly vulnerable as they are often short of cash. That’s why we have launched the ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign.

“When you’re caught, your bank account will be closed, making it difficult to access cash and credit. You could even face up to 14 years in jail. We’re urging people not to give their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them. If an offer of easy money sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of Cifas, said: “Our new figures show that money muling amongst young people is on the rise. This is a serious issue that not only has consequences for the money mule, but for society as a whole.

“The criminals behind money mules often use the cash to fund major crime, like terrorism and people trafficking. It’s this side of money muling that we want to raise awareness of with our new film. We want to educate young people about how serious this fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.”

More information about ‘Don’t Be Fooled’, and the Cifas film, can be found at www.moneymules.co.uk