The UK’s community bank, Metro Bank, is offering consumer guidance about how to avoid becoming a money mule and the serious consequences of doing so - the scam of the month for August.
A money mule is a person who is recruited, sometimes unwittingly, by criminals to gain access to their bank account with the promise of financial gain. Teenagers, young and vulnerable people are often targeted as money mules when fraudsters offered phones, games consoles or other high value items in exchange for their legitimate bank account numbers and passwords. In 2020, UK banks identified 8,791money mule accounts owned by people under the age of 21.
Once the criminal has access to a legitimate bank account – they can then use it for fraudulent activity. Money muling is a type of money laundering and even if the person whose bank account is being used is unaware that the money being transferred was illegally obtained, they’ve still played an important role in facilitating the fraud and can be prosecuted for their part in the scam.
Unsuspecting consumers are then lured into a scam and transfer money to the bank account of the mule, the fraudsters through money muling have control of the account and will immediately move the money, take it out in cash or give to someone else – the net result is the same – the money simply disappears and a victim of this crime is left feeling violated.
Recruiting money mules has grown in sophistication. Criminals often target and recruit people through social media platforms, by using fake job adverts or via social media posts.
With each new school / university year beginning in the autumn, this brings new targets for the fraudsters, but anyone can be targeted. Indeed, in 2020, Cifas research reported an increase in money muling activity in those aged under 30, with this representing 64% of accounts facilitating fraud by receiving fraudulent funds.
“Consumers should be wary of job adverts, get rich quick schemes offering instant returns, and even some competitions and raffles. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is” explains Adam Speakman, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank. “The fraudsters promise high gains, by luring you in with pictures of cash, jewellery and fast cars, but you will always get caught and left with nothing. Fraud is not a victimless crime, the victim is always left feeling violated. Consumers who are duped into, or knowingly participate in, money muling are facilitating fraud, a crime – not only are they unlikely to receive any monies promised, but also their bank account will be closed and they will struggle to get another one or other types of credit.”
Don’t Be An Ass When It Comes To Being A Money Mule
- Be wary of strangers contacting you about your bank account
- Never give away your bank details and security information
- Only use your bank account for your legitimate transactions
- Offers of easy money are always too good to be true, don’t fool for it!