Metro Bank’s July Scam of the Month is Money Mules. The Bank is highlighting the heavy penalties that consumers will face if they are tempted by the idea of easy money.
“A recent Cifas report highlighted that young people living in London and West Midlands are most at risk of being tempted by this type of crime,” warns Metro Bank’s Head of Fraud & Investigations, Baz Thompson. A money mule is someone who transfers money through their bank account on behalf of somebody else and is paid for doing so. “Compound this with the current cost of living crisis and we are anticipating a money mule explosion this summer – largely across social media where money mules are recruited.”
The biggest proponents of money mules are those aged under 25 – possibly because they are recruited via social media – one of the key platforms for this type of crime. It is also concerning that there has been an increase in young people aged 14-18 being approached to use their bank accounts for money muling. They are offered money in exchange for sharing their legitimate bank account details so scammers can use their account to move money earned from illegal activity. Alternatively, money launderers use their account to begin the process of “cleaning money” to hide that it has come from illegal activity.
The Cifas report also revealed that four out of five people do not realise that, by being rewarded for sharing their personal financial information, they are committing a crime. At worst, money muling carries fines and up to a 14-year prison sentence; but, even at its best, people who get involved can seriously damage their credit scores. This means they could struggle to get a phone contract, loan, mortgage and even negatively impact any future employment. They will also be added to the National Fraud Database, which means they can be denied access to a bank account in the future.
Some people are duped into this illegal activity, so knowing the warning signs can help you identify mule herders and avoid falling for their tricks.
Look out for
- Contact from someone you do not know trying to befriend you – especially online or in a messaging app.
- Someone you have met online offering deals that sound too good to be true.
- Job offers for quick and easy money with no experience necessary.
- Anyone who asks to transfer money to your bank account for you to pass on to someone else.
- Someone who wants to buy a valuable item from you and insists on paying by bank transfer.
How to help protect yourself
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Never accept money into your account if you do not know where it is from.
- Never share your bank details, contact details, or personal details with someone you do not know.
- If you are job hunting research all job offers and investigate the company behind the offer and stick to well-known sites for job searches – do not apply for jobs that are only advertised on social media.
- Take a look at the Take Five campaign which focuses on Stop, Challenge and Protect `
- If you are a parent or guardian, then please raise awareness about money muling with your children to help protect them.
If you have been contacted:
- If you think you have been contacted by a mule herder, ensure that you stop transferring money. Contact your bank who can help you. You can also contact the police or the charity Crimestoppers online or by calling them on 0800 555 111 anonymously.
- There is a wealth of information which UK Finance and Cifas have collated and is available at moneymules.co.uk
Baz Thompson concludes: “Don’t be fooled this summer and risk your financial future by making some easy money that in the long run could cost you dearly, negatively impact your future, lead to problems applying for any credit and may even curtail your freedom.”
 Cifas Money Mule Landscape