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Students vulnerable to money mule scams

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Written by: Emma Lunn
24/09/2021
Money worries mean a third of students would consider dodgy opportunities to make easy money, according to research by Nationwide.

The building society found that almost a third of students would allow someone else to use their account or transfer money for them, and only half of students would tell the police if they were approached to be a ‘money mule’.

Nationwide found that about six in 10 (61%) students think that they would be vulnerable to money mule scams. The main reasons given are due to increased financial worries (59%), the fact they are newly, financially independent (51%), and that they have less ‘lived-in’ experience to spot the warning signs of scams (41%).

According to the poll, nearly a third (32%) of students admit that concerns over their finances make them more likely to consider accepting an opportunity to make easy money even if it looks suspicious. This is considerably higher than the UK average, where just a fifth (20%) would entertain the idea. Nearly a third (29%) of students would even risk allowing someone else to use their current account or would transfer money for someone else.

More than a third (37%) of students admitted they would click on or respond to an advert that gives them the opportunity to earn quick or easy money, compared to just a quarter (25%) of Brits.

What is a money mule?

Allowing someone to use your bank account or transferring money on their behalf can lead to you, either knowingly or unknowingly, becoming a money mule.

Money mules typically receive money into their account and then transfer it into another account, or allow someone else access to their account, in return for cash.

However, Nationwide found that nearly two thirds (65%) of students didn’t know what a money mule was compared to the UK average (56%).

Holding or transferring money that is the proceeds of a crime is a type of money laundering. Those involved can face a prison sentence of 14 years. Anyone caught being a money mule is likely to find their bank account shut down and will find it difficult to open another account. A conviction will harm their credit record as well as the ability to find work in some industries.

Ed Fisher, Nationwide’s head of fraud, said: “Students, especially freshers arriving at university for the first time, can often be an easy target for fraudsters given their money worries, lack of experience of the financial system and managing their money, and how much of their daily lives are spent online. Our research shows it’s that hunt for quick and easy cash which can sometimes put them at risk, leading to immediate and long-term consequences. However, it’s also important to note that anyone can become a money mule – both young and old.

“However, it’s really encouraging to see that a good proportion of students will do their research on an opportunity before going ahead with it because getting involved in a money mule scam could result in a criminal prosecution, their account being frozen or even closed, difficulty finding credit or even some jobs no longer being an option. It’s important to always have the old adage in mind that if an opportunity looks too good to be true, it probably is. No one will ever need you to receive and then transfer money – you can’t know where it’s come from and it could be the proceeds of a nasty crime. That little bit of research could make the real difference between whether your future career and finances are successful or not.”

How to avoid becoming a money mule

* Be wary of job adverts that offer the chance to earn a significant amount of money for very little effort. Try and stick to reputable job ad websites.

* Be cautious with any job offers from overseas. It will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate.

* Always be suspicious of anyone contacting you offering of quick and easy money. Remember the old adage that if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.

* Do not sign up or proceed with any opportunity without undertaking some proper research on the person, company or opportunity.

* Do not engage with any social media posts offering large sums of money. Ignore them and report them.

* Don’t share bank and personal details with anyone you don’t know or trust.

*  If you are asked to receive money into your account and to then transfer that on to someone else, say no and contact the police and your bank or building society.

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