Don’t be fooled into becoming a mule: why young people should beware online schemes promising quick cash
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Young people are being targeted online by criminals who want to use their bank accounts to launder money.
What might seem like an easy way to make some extra cash could end with a criminal record and a prison sentence.
Money mules receive stolen cash and then forward it onto another account, usually for a small fee. These crimes are often disguised as ‘make money quick’ schemes or ‘trading opportunities’.
Money muling is one of the few types of fraud to actively target young people and according to research, under 25s are six times more likely to fall victim to criminals using social media platforms than over 50s.
Once the money has been laundered, it is used in serious crimes including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug smuggling and terrorist activity.
It is also known as 'Deets and Squares' referring to the bank details and cards that teenagers are often asked to hand over in exchange for a cut of the cash laundered through their accounts.
Anyone caught muling will have their bank accounts closed and be prevented from having an account for six years. This would make it extremely difficult to access student loans, mortgages or take out a phone contract.
They could also face up to 14 years in prison.
David Gillies is the Prevent & Protect Fraud Officer for the Essex & Kent Serious Crime Directorate. He has been part of the team working with schools and universities to raise awareness of this type of fraud. He said people should be extremely cautious about adverts offering cash rewards for very little work:
“People may see an advert online and think this would be a good way to earn to extra money before Christmas. However, the criminals behind these adverts are actively grooming people and the mule may not even realise what is happening.
“People might think letting someone else use their bank account as easy money but these transactions help fund organised crime.
“I would urge anyone who sees an advert promoting a scheme that is offering quick cash for what seems like not a lot of work to ignore it, and no legitimate business would ask you for your bank details up front or to transfer sums of money through your personal account.
“If you knowingly allow your account details to be used for fraud you could face a prison sentence. However, our priority is finding and prosecuting those who are using money mules.”
What to look out for: • Posts on social media offering opportunities to make money. • Hashtags on Instagram and Snapchat such as #realmoneytransfers, #activebankaccount, #moneyflips, #PayPalflips and #easymoney should all be warnings of a money muling scam. • Adverts from unknown companies with little to no web presence, or adverts with bad spelling and grammar can be an indicator that they are not legitimate.
How to protect yourself: • Don’t accept any job offers that ask you to transfer money through your personal bank account. • Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate. • Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know or trust. . If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud, call us on 101. You can also contact Action Fraud – the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre – by calling 0300 123 2040, or you can report anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.