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Students: stop yourself becoming a ‘money mule’

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Fraudsters are recruiting unwitting students to carry out criminal activity. Read our tips on how to spot when a job advert is not quite right.

New figures released this week by Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) have highlighted the spread of a scam which recruits students, through illicit job adverts, to money-launder thousands of pounds to criminal gangs abroad – the proceeds of which fund an international trade in drugs, people trafficking and terrorism. 

Those living in London are three times as likely to be approached – putting Londoners and especially students in the highest risk category.

The fake job offers, often made online using titles such as ‘Money Transfer Agent’ or ‘Payment Processing Agent’, turn the job applicants into so-called ‘Money Mules’.

According to the report, the recipient of the offer is invited to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to another account, retaining a cut for themselves.

In reality, the money received is stolen, often the result of fraud on accounts, and is then laundered to overseas bank accounts.

Falling for these cons carries a number of consequences for the student – including freezing of student bank accounts, difficulty in opening new accounts in the future – affecting the ability to get a mortgage, insurance etc, and even a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Here’s some advice for students on how to spot a criminal money laundering approach and steps to take to protect themselves:

– Be very cautious of unsolicited emails promising opportunities to make easy money.

– Verify any company that makes you a job offer and check their contact details (address, landline phone number, email address and website) are correct and whether they are registered in the UK.

– Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate.

– Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.

Other signs that could indicate you are being targeted by a money mule scam:

– Money mule adverts or offers can take a variety of different forms and they may even copy a genuine company’s website and have a similar web address to make the scam seem authentic.

– These adverts will normally state that they are an overseas company seeking ‘UK representatives’ or ‘agents’ to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high transaction charges or local taxes.

– The nature of the work that the company will claim to be involved in can vary, but the specifics of the job being advertised invariably mean using your bank account to move money.

– The advert may be written in poor English with grammatical and spelling mistakes.

– If you have already disclosed your bank account details or received money into your account and you think it could be a money mule scam, you should contact your bank immediately.

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