Young people are increasingly the major victims of fraud. Victims don’t only lose their money — they can lose their family savings, their businesses, their trust in other people, their mental health, and plenty more.
Money mules are one of the most important enablers of fraud: this is where you let someone else use your bank account to send stolen money into. By using money mules, criminals try to ensure that the legal consequences hit the mule instead of them.
Money mules usually get recruited because they get a cut of the stolen money. This means they are involved in money laundering, a serious criminal offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Around six in ten money mules are under the age of 30, and most are recruited between the ages of 17 and 24. Many criminals target their recruitment of money mules at universities or colleges, either online, in person, or via friends and family.
How can I protect myself?
Always remember that, if you aren’t sure about the source of some money, it could have come from criminal activity, and you could be laundering money without realising and end up with a criminal conviction.
- Be suspicious of job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money. Stick to reputable job sites, and remember that, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Don’t sign up for any opportunity without doing some proper research. For example, Google any prospective employer: do they have an online presence? Are the contact details legitimate? Is it based overseas?
- Don’t engage with any online posts offering large sums of money.
- Don’t accept message requests from people you don’t know. If you receive a message from a friend with a link to click, speak to them in person before you respond.
- Don’t share bank and personal details with anyone that you don’t know or trust — even among friends or family. If someone asks to 'borrow' your bank account, say no.
What should I do if I'm approached?
If you or someone you know has been approached by a person asking to use your bank account, break off all contact, don’t receive or move any money, and ask for advice from someone you trust. Criminals operate in silence – by talking about it, you are protecting others. You can then:
- report it by calling local police on 101 or 999 in an emergency
- contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline and quote the reference 'IFMM23'. You do not have to give your name or contact details unless you want to
- contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers anonymously online or by calling 0800 555 111. Please quote the reference 'IFMM23'
- if you see something suspicious online, click the button to report it to the social media companies to get it taken down
- if you think someone you know is already involved, go to the National Crime Agency website for advice
- if criminals have already got your personal information, report it to Action Fraud National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre on 0300 123 2040