Parents and guardians in Devon and Cornwall are being urged to warn their children about the dangers of becoming a money mule, with national figures revealing the number of 14-18-year olds misusing their bank accounts has risen by 73 per cent in two years.
A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money through their own bank account on behalf of someone else and is paid for doing so. Criminals use money mules to launder the profits of their crimes.
Young people are often unaware that acting as a money mule is illegal, not being aware of the provenance of the money going through their accounts. They are approached to take part online or in person, including through social media, at school, college or sports clubs.
As part of the Don’t Be Fooled awareness campaign, Devon and Cornwall Police is contacting schools in its area to warn parents and guardians of the risks of their children becoming a money mule.
Figures from Cifas, the largest cross-sector fraud-sharing and prevention non-profit organisation in the UK, show that in 2018 there were 5,819 cases nationally of young people aged 14-18 using their bank accounts for money muling in the UK. This is a rise of 20 per cent on 2017 (4,849 cases) and a 73 per cent increase since 2016 (3,360 cases).
Further information and advice about money mules is available at www.moneymules.co.uk
Inspector John Shuttleworth of Devon & Cornwall Police said: “In a four year investigation into nationwide large scale fraud Devon and Cornwall Police, involving adults embroiled in money laundering, we found the predominant feature for many of the people suspected of money laundering was a naïve understanding of where money had come from when it appeared in their bank account.
“Some would turn a blind eye for a cut of the money or sometimes sell the bank account to someone without asking why. Some were completely fooled into thinking they were doing a ‘friend’ a favour by lending their account details and security information.
“To be clear, when someone asks to borrow or use your bank account, they will be doing it for the purpose of hiding stolen money that is often stolen from very vulnerable victims or from the proceeds of drug trafficking and the like. Don’t do it, it’s illegal – you could end up being arrested whilst someone somewhere will be profiting from the exploitation of the vulnerable”.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: “The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud. Many youngsters are unaware of the devastating consequences that fraud can have on their future opportunities, and so teachers, parents and carers can play an important role here by ensuring young people have the necessary knowledge and skills to prevent them from unwittingly falling victim to fraud, or even become perpetrators themselves.”
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “It may seem like an easy way to make some cash, but as well as being illegal, being a money mule means you will also be helping to fund serious crimes such as drug dealing and people trafficking. When you are caught your bank account will be closed and you will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere or get a mobile phone contract or credit in the future.
Remember, never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.”
Follow the advice of the Don’t Be Fooled campaign to spot the tell-tale signs that someone might be involved in money muling and for tips on how to stay safe:
Make sure your child doesn’t give their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them.
Tell them to be cautious of unsolicited offers of easy money, because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Look out for your child suddenly having extra cash, buying expensive new clothes or electronics with very little explanation as to how they got the money.
A young person involved in money muling may become more secretive, withdrawn or appear stressed.
Parents and guardians are advised not to attempt to contact any individual they suspect of organising money muling and should instead contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Devon and Cornwall Police News and Appeals