New data released by Cifas shows a sharp rise in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are letting their bank accounts be used to transfer the proceeds of crime. The statistics reveal a 75 percent increase in the misuse of bank accounts involving 18 to 24-year-olds during the first nine months of 2017, compared to the same period last year. This is where an account, policy or product is misused by the genuine account holder. The most common example of this is when individual acts as a ‘money mule’, which means they allow their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds.

The data has been released by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, to coincide with the launch of a joint campaign with Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), the body that leads the fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. The ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign aims to deter young people – in particular, students – from becoming money mules.

Young people and students are particularly vulnerable as fraudsters know they are often short of cash. Criminals may approach them with what looks like a genuine job offer, asking them to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to someone else, keeping some of the cash for themselves.

According to the figures, there were 8,652 cases of ‘misuse of facility’ cases amongst 18 to 24-year-olds between January and the end of September this year. This represents 35 percent of all cases during that period.

The 2017 figures also demonstrate a dramatic rise in money mule fraud over the last five years, with cases involving 18-24-year-olds more than doubling since 2013.

Through ‘Don’t Be Fooled’, FFA UK and Cifas want to highlight that, if you become a money mule, you are involved in money laundering. Banks have sophisticated systems in place to track fraudulent transactions and, when a person is caught misusing their account in this way, it will be closed, and they will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere. Having no bank account makes it hard to obtain student loans, mobile phone contracts or other financial products. A person convicted of money laundering could even face up to 14 years in prison.

The organised criminal gangs behind money mule scams often use the proceeds of crime to commit other serious offences such as drug and people trafficking, sexual exploitation and terrorism. Cifas has developed a new film to bring these consequences to life.

Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing, at UK Finance – the organisation behind FFA UK – said:
“Money muling is money laundering and criminals are using young people as mules in increasing numbers. We know that students are particularly vulnerable as they are often short of cash. That’s why we have launched the Don’t Be Fooled campaign. 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.”

Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of Cifas, said “Our new figures show that money muling amongst young people is on the rise. This is a serious issue that not only has consequences for the money mule, but for society as a whole. The criminals behind money mules often use the cash to fund major crime, like terrorism and people trafficking. It’s this side of money muling that we want to raise awareness of with our new film. We want to educate young people about how serious this fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.”