Fraud prevention service, Cifas, has released new figures showing stark increases in the number young people acting as ‘money mules’ and those falling victim to identity fraud.  The data has been released to coincide with the launch of new anti-fraud lessons plans, developed by Cifas, in association with the PSHE Association, the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic education in schools.

The new figures reveal that Cifas members identified 8,474 cases in relation to under 21-year-olds acting as money mules, 2,256 more than 2016.  This is when an individual allows their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds, a form of money laundering.  Acting as a money mule is a serious criminal offence, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.  Furthermore, the new figures also show that 2,321 under 21s were victims of identity fraud, an increase of 541 compared to the previous year.

Together with the PSHE Association, and in response to increasing numbers of young people affected by fraud, either being targeted by online fraudsters or unwittingly engaging in fraudulent acts themselves, Cifas has created four Anti-Fraud Education lessons plans, targeted at 11-16 year olds, raising awareness of fraud, common scams, identity fraud and money mules.

Chief Executive of Cifas Simon Dukes, says “As our new figures show, it is critical that we take every opportunity to educate young people on how to protect themselves from being either fraud victims or fraud perpetrators. Cifas, industry, government and law enforcement recognise more needs to be done to raise awareness of fraud and financial crime. When it comes to acting as a money mule, unwittingly or not, it is a serious crime that not only has consequences for the individual concerned, but also for society as a whole.”

“On behalf of the Home Office-led Joint Fraud Taskforce, Cifas has launched these new lessons plans with the PSHE Association, to educate young people about how serious this fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.  It also provides young people with an understanding of the protective behaviours needed to keep themselves safe from online scams and identity fraud more widely.”

Chief Executive of the PSHE Association Jonathan Baggaley, said “PSHE education supports students to leave school ‘economically literate’, ready to face an increasingly complex world full of new risks and opportunities. As online scams become a ubiquitous concern, and fraudsters specifically target young people, these new anti-fraud PSHE lessons could not be released at a more relevant and important time. The new materials will introduce students to the risks of online identity fraud and being recruited as a money mule, while exploring the wider importance of online safety and economic wellbeing through a planned PSHE programme”.

The lesson plans cover Key Stage 3 and 4. The two lesson plans for Key Stage 3 students introduce the concept of fraud and the importance of digital literacy and data protection within the context of financial risk. The two lesson plans for Key Stage 4 build on this learning by encouraging students to think about their responsibility for financial information in more independent contexts.

The lesson plans aim to help students to:

  • Recognise what fraud is, why they may be targeted and how to seek support
  • Explain the consequences of committing fraud
  • Develop skills to protect their online information and personal data
  • Develop skills to critically evaluate the reliability of online content in relation to scams

The lesson plans are currently available to download from the PSHE Association website (where they are included as a Quality Assured PSHE resource), and the Cifas website.