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Students warned about money mule activity

Students warned about money mule activity
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Fraudsters are tempting an increasing number of students into acting as ‘money mules’, according to Barclays. But getting involved in this type of activity could land young people with a criminal record.

The bank revealed a 23% increase in student money mules last October, the start of the academic year.

A money mule is someone who lets criminals use their bank account to move money, a type of money laundering. A lot of the time, money mules are unwitting, and often don’t know what’s really happening. They are either manipulated into believing a cover story, or lured by an offer of payment.

Barclays research found that two in five money mules are under the age of 25, and one in five are under 21.

Further, more than a quarter (29%) of 18 to 21-year-olds would be happy to move money around under someone else’s direction, if it meant being paid.

Barclays warned that students might be more susceptible to becoming money mules due to the increasing cost of living, and the need for additional income. It comes as data showed that students’ essential spending has gone up three times more than the average Brit.

Were they to be tricked into becoming a money mule, eight in 10 (78%) 18 to 21-year-olds wouldn’t tell their bank, and another eight in 10 (78%) wouldn’t tell their parents. When asked why they would not speak to their parents, 33% said they would be embarrassed, 28% wouldn’t want their parents to worry, and 26% would fear how they might react.

Almost two thirds (63%) of 18 to 21-year-olds didn’t realise that they could potentially get a criminal record if they were caught acting as a money mule, while seven in 10 (69%) weren’t aware they could face difficulty getting credit or loans.

Ross Martin, head of digital safety at Barclays, said: “Criminals will often set up fake profiles on social media, and make posts advertising quick cash or easy investments.

“Always be wary of people reaching out to you online with too-good-to-be-true opportunities, get-rich-quick schemes, and requests to pass money through your bank account.

“Remember, being a money mule can not only make it difficult to get credit down the line – like a student loan, phone contract, or mortgage – but you could also end up with a criminal record.”

Tips for students and parents

Barclays has compiled tips for parents and guardians of young people to help them avoid becoming money mules:

  • Parents should talk to their children about how to keep their bank account safe. Students should make sure they only share their bank account details with people they know and can trust.
  • Parents should help their offspring understand how to recognise and avoid offers that look too good to be true – most ‘get rich quick’ schemes are not what they seem.
  • Students should be wary of anyone who approaches them unexpectedly online, especially anyone asking to use their bank account.
  • Young people should never accept money into their bank account if they don’t know where it’s from.
  • Parents should ask questions if their child starts talking about a new job, or they suddenly seem to have extra money, especially if they can’t explain where the money came from.