Consumers are at risk of having their bank accounts shut down due to a rise in them being used for ‘money muling’, according to fraud prevention service Cifas.
According to statistics from the organisation, the number money muling cases has risen by 59% between 2016 and 2017, while the number of over 50s affected has risen by 73% over the year.
Money muling is a form of money laundering where a criminal or organised criminal gang transfers money into an innocent person’s bank account, which in turn is transferred onwards to another account.
Sometimes consumers are unaware of this taking place, but often there is a percentage ‘fee’ involved to encourage people to participate.
Cifas warns that the person whose bank account acts as an intermediary could lose access to their account and will often find it difficult to open a new one elsewhere. They could also be liable to prosecution for money laundering, even if they were unaware of the source or destination of these funds. Money laundering convictions can carry a jail sentence of up to 14 years.
Katy Worobec, head of fraud and financial crime prevention, cyber and data sharing at UK Finance comments: “When you’re caught, your bank account will be closed, making it difficult to access cash and credit. You could even face up to 14 years in jail. We’re urging people not to give their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them. If an offer of easy money sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The three most common money muling dupes
People are susceptible to getting caught up in these transfers because criminals approach them with what appear to be genuine ‘job’ offers that involve moving money around using their account. Cifas warns of the three most common ways in which people are duped into getting involved:
- Responding to job adverts or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work;
- Failing to research a potential employer, particularly one based overseas, before handing over your personal or financial details to them;
- Allowing an employer, or someone you don’t know and trust, to use your bank account to transfer money.
How to protect yourself from becoming a money mule
Cifas has three key tips to avoid falling foul of a money muling scam:
- No legitimate company will ever ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. Don’t accept any job offers that ask you to do this;
- Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate;
- Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.