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Is your child a money mule?

Written by: Emma Lunn
UK Finance and CIFAS launch Don’t Be Fooled campaign to stop young people being lured into becoming “money mules”.

Parents are being urged to warn their children about the dangers of becoming a money mule after it was found that the number of 14 to 18-year olds misusing their bank accounts has risen by 73 per cent in the past two years.

The Don’t Be Fooled awareness campaign will involve local police forces contacting schools in their area to educate teachers, parents and children about the risks of becoming a money mule.

A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money through their own bank account on behalf of someone else and is paid for doing so. Criminals use money mules to launder the profits of their crimes.

According to CIFAS, in 2018 there were 5,819 cases of 14 to 18-year-olds in the UK using their bank accounts for money muling. This is a rise of 20 per cent on 2017 (4,849 cases) and a 73 per cent increase since 2016 (3,360 cases).

Young people are often unaware that acting as a money mule is illegal. They are usually approached to take part online or in person, including through social media, at school, college or sports clubs.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “It may seem like an easy way to make some cash, but as well as being illegal, being a money mule means you will also be helping to fund serious crimes such as drug dealing and people trafficking. When you are caught your bank account will be closed and you will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere or get a mobile phone contract or credit in the future. Remember, never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.”

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: “The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud. Many youngsters are unaware of the devastating consequences that fraud can have on their future opportunities, and so teachers, parents and carers can play an important role here by ensuring young people have the necessary knowledge and skills to prevent them from unwittingly falling victim to fraud, or even become perpetrators themselves.”

The City of London Police’s economic crime directorate works with banks and other agencies to raise awareness of the illegality and dangers of money muling, especially among young people, who are particularly vulnerable.

Detective Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe said: “Teachers, parents and carers are in an ideal position to engage with young people. They can play a vital part in helping educate them about money muling and the risks that come with it, such as a criminal record, which could greatly harm their future prospects.”

Advice for parents

  • Make sure your child doesn’t give their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them.
  • Tell your child to be cautious of unsolicited offers of easy money, because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Look out for your child suddenly having extra cash, buying expensive new clothes or electronics with very little explanation as to how they got the money.
  • Watch out for your child becoming more secretive, withdrawn or stressed than normal.
  • Don’t attempt to contact any individual you suspect of organising money muling. Instead contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Santander warned about the hashtags used on social media to recruit money mules earlier this month.

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