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‘Alarming’ rise in number of young fraud victims

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

There has been a 24% increase in the number of under-21s falling victim to fraud this year.

The numbers have reached a new peak, rising from 2,842 in 2017 to 3,527 in the first nine months of 2018.

The majority of fraud relates to bank, debt, credit or store cards. According to fraud prevention service Cifas, 34% of all cases related to plastic payment cards, representing a 79% increase in the past year.

It has also seen a steep rise (26%) in the number of young people acting as ‘money mules’. This is where people allow their bank accounts to be funded by criminals. It’s a form of money laundering which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Cifas reports that so far this year, 9,636 under-21s have been identified as money mules, up from the 7,668 reported in the previous year. As such, it’s urging banks to provide more information to young people when opening an account to warn them of the implications of becoming money mules.

Chief executive officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, said: “Our figures are alarming to say the least. Young people are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of identify fraud, with little idea of how to protect themselves.

“As the rise in money mules demonstrates, many young people seem unaware of the risks they’re running and the consequences it can have not only for the individual concerned but for society as a whole. More needs to be done to raise awareness about the harm of fraud and financial crime.”

Tom Clementson, director of consumer & small and medium sized businesses at secure payments provider, Shieldpay, said older people are sometimes mistakenly seen as prime targets for online fraud but it is all too often the tech savvy younger generation that are taken advantage of.

“Our own research indicates that almost three times as many 16-24 year olds have been victims of online scams in comparison to over-55s. More needs to be done to educate and prevent younger people falling prey to these types of online swindles. It can be difficult to spot the signs, but there are a few common ways you can sniff out the approach.”

What to watch for

He lists the following warnings signs:

  • Money mule adverts or offers may copy a genuine company’s website and have a similar web address to make the scam seem authentic
  • If done by email, there will often be grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, and it will probably also include poor sentence structure
  • The email address associated with the offer will normally use a web-based service (Gmail, Yahoo!, Windows Live Hotmail, etc.) instead of an organisation-based domain
  • These adverts will normally state that they are an overseas company seeking ‘local/national representatives’ or ‘agents’ to act on their behalf for a period of time, sometimes to avoid high transaction charges or local taxes
  • All interactions and transactions will be done online. The offer promises significant earning potential for little effort
  • 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

How to protect yourself

Clementson includes the following tips to help young people avoid falling victim to fraud:

  • If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Be cautious of unsolicited emails or approaches over social media 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 your country
  • Never give your bank account or any other personal details to anyone unless you know and trust them.