Bedfordshire Police are urging parents and guardians to warn their children about the dangers of 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% on 2017 (4,849 cases) and a 73% increase since 2016 (3,360 cases).
“Our force is working closely with schools in our county to educate our youth about misusing their bank accounts,” said Michael Williams, Bedfordshire Police’s Cyber Security advisor.
“Young people might be tempted by promises of easy money but they don’t realise that this way they are committing a crime which can have a serious impact on their future.
“When opening an account for your children please educate them about money muling and ask them to think twice before accepting offers of easy money.
“And if they are in doubt to ask an adult for help.”
Now, through the ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ awareness campaign, Bedfordshire Police will be seeking to work with schools to help warn of the risks of children becoming a money mule.
Tips being offered to parents include:
- Warn your child not to give their bank account details to anyone they don’t know and trust
- Tell them to be wary of offers of easy money or things that sound too good to be true
- Look out for your child suddenly having extra cash or buying new clothes or electronics with no explanation where they got the money
- Children involved in money muling may become secretive, withdrawn or appear stressed
Unfortunately, young people don’t realise that acting as a money mule is often illegal, but parents and guardians should not attempt to contact anyone they suspect of organising money muling.
Instead they should contact the police on 101 or through their online reporting centre. They can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Criminals will approach them to take part online or in person at school, college or sports clubs.
They may event try and contact them on social media.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, 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…
“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.”