HM Revenue and Customs is warning young people to be aware of money mule scams
By: Maria Balboa Carbon
Last updated: Monday, 20 March 2023
Young people are increasingly the major victims of fraud. Victims don’t only lose their money – they can lose their family savings, their businesses, their trust in other people, and impact their mental health and more. However, by being aware of criminal’s fraudulent schemes, you can help protect yourself, and potentially others from criminals.
An example of one of the most important enablers of fraud are called ‘money mules’ – this is where a person lets someone else use their bank account to send money into.
The money placed in a money mule’s account will have been made through criminal activities – and it’s illegal to accept this money in an account your responsible for, and/or is in your name.
By using money mules, criminals try to ensure that the consequences impact the mule instead of them. Money mules usually get recruited because they get a share of the stolen money. This means they are involved in money laundering, a serious criminal offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Around six in ten money mules are under the age of 30 and most are recruited between the ages of 17 and 24. Many criminals target their recruitment of money mules at universities or colleges – either online, in person or via friends and family.
How can you protect yourself?
- Be suspicious of job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money. Stick to reputable job sites and remember that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. The CareersHub advertises legitimate job opportunities for students and you can find information on working while studying on the Student Hub.
- Don’t sign up for any opportunity without undertaking some proper research. E.g., Google any prospective employer, do they have an online presence? Are the contact details legitimate? Is it based overseas?
- Don’t engage with any online posts offering large sums of money.
- Don’t accept message requests from people you don’t know, and if you receive a message with a link to click from a friend, speak to them in person before you respond.
- Never share bank and personal details with anyone that you don’t know or trust – even among friends or family. If someone asks to 'borrow' your bank account, say no.
Always remember that if you aren’t sure about the source of the money, it could have come from criminal activity, and you could unwittingly be laundering money, and end up with a criminal conviction.
What should you do if somebody approaches you?
1. Ask a friend or an adult you trust first
If you or someone you know has been approached, break off all contact, don’t receive or move any money, and ask for advice from someone you trust. Criminals operate in silence – by talking about it, you are protecting others.
2. Report mule recruiters
If you think you know someone is recruiting mules, you can protect victims by reporting them. Call local police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
If you prefer not to give your details to the police, you can contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111. Their services are completely anonymous.
You can also contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline. You do not have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.
If it’s online content, click the button to report it to the social media companies to get it taken down. Social media companies also want to get bad actors off of their platforms.
3. If you think someone is already involved, go to the NCA website for advice
If you think someone you know is already involved, go to the National Crime Agency website for advice.
4. Report it if you’re a victim of fraud
If criminals have already got your personal information report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, on their website or contact 0300 123 2040.
Find out more tips on how to protect yourself against fraud on the Student Hub.