Update: The number of people under 30 suspected of being money mules has soared by nearly 80% in the past year according to figures from the crime prevention agency Cifas
Cases where criminals target teenage ‘mules’ to use their accounts to launder and divert illegal money have increased dramatically, according to Cifas, the UK fraud prevention body. 14 – 18 yr olds are especially vulnerable to this type of digital risk and banks and fraud prevention organisations are keen to alert parents and young people of the dangers.
Chief Executive of Cifas, Mike Haley said ‘The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud’.
Cifas discovered 8,500 money mule accounts for Under 21’s (with some as young as 14) back in in 2017.
How do Money Mules Work?
Criminals target children and young people via social media (Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook & Instagram), messaging apps, e-mail, the Internet and by direct contact using coercion techniques – normally by offering victims a payment, fee or cut, to allow their bank accounts to be used to move criminal funds through their accounts – making the money less suspicious to banks.
Criminal networks use sophisticated automated techniques – to them it’s a numbers game. Sports Clubs, Schools and Colleges are key recruiting grounds according to the BBC, as well as anywhere young people congregate online. When thousands of youngsters are contacted, someone will bite. Here’s what happened to Holly
Europol say the most targeted are ‘newcomers to the country, students, unemployed, those in financial crisis’ and aged mostly between 18-34.
Young people who get caught up in this activity can be threatened with violence if they try to quit, by the criminals who recruited them.
Niamh Davenport, Head of Fraud for the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) explained that ‘Away from actually meeting people face to face, there are quite blatant ads on Snapchat especially, as well as private groups on social media pages. There are ones which say ‘earn up to €50 at home’, these kind of ones.’
Davenport says ‘many people don’t even realise they have committed a crime and it is especially younger people who are being targeted’.
Young people may be tempted by the ‘easy money’, think ‘what harm can it do’ and be unaware of the serious consequences to their future.
UK Finance stress the outcome can be severe – that young people can ‘face prison, fines, community service, never get a mortgage or even open a bank account’.
How to Prevent Young People from getting involved
REMEMBER When it comes to Social Media and the Internet ‘If it’s too good to be true then it often is!’.
Be cautious when it comes to unsolicited emails or messages via messaging apps.
Pay attention to strange or suspicious friend or connect requests and emails.
Double check and verity any company or business who offers you a task or job in return for money.
Remember bank account details, pin number etc are personal information. Keep them safe and secure.
Ensure they know the consequences are serious.
This is happening frequently. Remain vigilant and look out for the warning signs.
What to do if you become involved in a suspected email or money mule posting or are contacted directly.
Stop transferring money immediately. Notify the service, the bank and inform the Police.
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