Parents and guardians are being urged to warn their children about the dangers of becoming a money mule, with figures revealing the number of 14-18-year olds misusing their bank accounts has risen by 73 per cent in two years.

As part of the Don’t Be Fooled awareness campaign, over the coming weeks a number of police forces nationwide will be contacting schools in their area to warn parents and guardians of the risks of their children becoming a money mule.

A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money through their own bank account on behalf of someone else and is paid for doing so. Criminals use money mules to launder the profits of their crimes.

In 2018, there were 5,819 cases of young people aged 14-18 using their bank accounts for money muling in the UK, figures from Cifas show. This is a rise of 20 per cent on 2017 (4,849 cases) and a 73 per cent increase since 2016 (3,360 cases).

Young people are often unaware that acting as a money mule is illegal. They are approached to take part online or in person, including through social media, at school, college or sports clubs.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said “It may seem like an easy way to make some cash, but as well as being illegal, being a money mule means you will also be helping to fund serious crimes such as drug dealing and people trafficking. When you are caught your bank account will be closed and you will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere or get a mobile phone contract or credit in the future. Remember, never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.”

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said “The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud. Many youngsters are unaware of the devastating consequences that fraud can have on their future opportunities, and so teachers, parents and carers can play an important role here by ensuring young people have the necessary knowledge and skills to prevent them from unwittingly falling victim to fraud, or even become perpetrators themselves.”

Detective Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe of the City of London Police’s economic crime directorate, said “We work with the banks and other agencies to raise awareness of the illegality and dangers of money muling, especially among young people, who we know are particularly vulnerable.”

“Teachers, parents and carers are in an ideal position to engage with young people. They can play a vital part in helping educate them about money muling and the risks that come with it, such as a criminal record, which could greatly harm their future prospects.”