Save, make, understand money


Warning: Money launderers targeting under-30s as 'money mules'

Warning: Money launderers targeting under-30s as 'money mules'
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Santander has warned young people about the risks of becoming a ‘money mule’ as new data shows those aged under 30 are most commonly targeted by criminals.

A money mule is someone who lets a criminal use their bank account to move money. It’s a type of money laundering and can help funnel funds to organised crime.

Acting as a money mule is a criminal offence and can result in fines, a prison sentence, and difficulty in getting a bank account in the future.

Criminals use money mules to move stolen money to avoid being detected. They target people with fake job adverts or friendships to trick them into allowing account usage and there’s often a cash incentive.

Young people targeted

New Santander data covering the 12-month period between September 2022 and August 2023 shows it is overwhelmingly young people who are being lured into acting as money mules.

The bank’s data found that more than a fifth (21%) of money mule accounts were held in accounts by people aged under 20. People aged 19 and under accounted for more money mule accounts (21%) than everybody aged 50 and over combined (9%).

The other age groups with the most money mule accounts were 20 to 25-year-olds (19%) and 25 to 30-year-olds (15%).

Dave Lowe, head of fraud at Santander, said: “Criminals are targeting younger people to help them illegally move money between accounts and it is vital everyone remains guarded against suspicious job adverts or messages asking them to move money through their bank account.

“Money laundering is a serious crime and can have life-changing consequences; from future difficulties opening bank accounts to criminal prosecution. It is also not a victimless crime, with the funds often being used to support organised crime.

“Santander has robust security measures in place to identify unusual activity and investigate suspected money mule accounts, including working with law enforcement partners when necessary.”

Are you being used as a money mule?

Watch out for the following tactics:

  • A ‘friend’ asking if they can send some money to you and then asking you to send it on to someone else or give them the cash. Sometimes they might say their own account is blocked.
  • Job adverts that involve using your own account to receive and send money.
  • Being offered money for someone to use your bank account.

The consequences of acting as a money mule

If you’re found to have been involved in this type of money laundering, you could be facing the consequences for a long time. Possible repercussions include:

  • Having your bank account shut down
  • Finding it hard to open another bank account
  • Be threatened by the criminals to continue helping them
  • Struggling to get a loan or mobile phone contract
  • Being liable for the full amount of the money paid into your account
  • Criminal prosecution