Young people whose job prospects have been impacted by the pandemic are being targeted online by criminals looking to recruit money mules to launder the profits of their crimes, UK Finance and Cifas is warning.
Its latest research has revealed there were 17,157 cases of suspected ‘money muling’ activity involving 21-30 year olds in 2020, a 5% increase on the previous year.
This age group accounted for 42% of money mule activity in 2020, up from 38% three years ago. It was among the hardest hit by the economic impact of Covid-19, with thousands facing job losses as a result of the pandemic and graduates entering the jobs market at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
Intelligence suggests criminals are exploiting people’s financial difficulties by using social media platforms, jobs websites and phishing emails to approach them with offers of easy cash. They will use the promise of earning money quickly to convince individuals to provide their bank details, before asking them to transfer the funds received to another account and keep some of the cash for themselves, making them a money mule.
Often, people are unaware that allowing their bank accounts to be used in this way is a crime which will have long-term consequences when they are caught. This could include a criminal record, having their bank account closed and difficulty opening one elsewhere, and trouble obtaining mobile phone contracts or accessing credit in future. Those who become money mules are also often not aware that the cash they are laundering is used by criminals to facilitate serious crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling.
UK Finance and Cifas are calling for fraud and economic crime to be included in the upcoming Online Safety Bill. This would make online platforms responsible for taking down fraudulent content, including social media posts or job adverts used to recruit people as money mules.
• Cifas is a not-for-profit fraud prevention organisation, managing the largest database of instances of fraudulent conduct in the country. See https://www.cifas.org.uk/