The number of young people acting as money mules has risen by over a quarter in the last 12 months, new figures reveal.
As many as 9,636 under-21s caught up in the crime last year – a rise of 26%. Money muling is where someone allows their bank account to be used by criminals to move ill-gotten funds – a form of money laundering.
Young people including students are often targeted because they are short of cash. They are sometimes lured in by adverts online or in social media posts offering cash sums for little work.
Successful prosecution for such an offence carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The number of young people falling victim to identity fraud also rocketed, the latest figures from fraud prevention service Cifas show.
As many as 3,527 fell victim, up by 24% in just one year.
Cifas says one in three (34%) involved payment cards such as debit, credit, or store cards. Fraudsters steal a person’s identity then apply for cards which they can then go on to spend wildly on.
Chief executive officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, says: "Our new 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.
“For all of us, as parents, teachers, and responsible citizens, we have a duty to ensure we’re taking every opportunity to educate young people on the dangers of becoming a fraud victim – and equally, a perpetrator of fraud.”
Cifas is calling on banks to do more to inform and protect young people when opening their first financial products.
Mr Haley adds: “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.
“We’re calling on banks in particular to ensure that they are providing young people with the necessary knowledge to prevent them falling victim to fraud – or becoming fraud perpetrators.”
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A MONEY MULE
- Do not give bank details to anyone you do not know or trust
- Be wary of job offers where all interactions and transactions are done online
- Be cautious of unsolicited offers of easy money
- Research any company that makes you a job offer