A sharp increase in money mule activity involving the under-30s has been identified during the first half of this year.
Figures given to the BBC’s Crimewatch Live show a 78% increase in accounts belonging to people aged under 21 bearing the hallmarks of money mule activity and a 76% rise among those for people aged 21 to 30.
The figures, provided by not-for-profit fraud prevention organisation Cifas, compare January to June 2021 with the same period in 2020.
There was also a smaller 26% increase in accounts belonging to people aged over 30 with signs of potential money mule activity.
Money mules are paid by criminals to launder cash, and many do not realise they are involved in criminality.
Some people may see such “get rich quick” schemes advertised on social media and think it appears an easy way to make money.
Money mules allow their bank accounts to be used to transfer money to be used in the proceeds of crime, but if they are caught they can face up to 14 years in prison, as well as the financial repercussions of having their bank account closed and finding it hard to apply for credit.
The money being moved around could be linked to criminal activities such as scams, drug dealing, sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
Once someone becomes a money mule they may be threatened with violence if they try to stop.
Amber Burridge, head of fraud intelligence at Cifas, who appeared on BBC1 to explain the schemes said: “Two-thirds of the UK population now use social media as a way to communicate with each other.
“This activity is being marketed in such a way that it doesn’t seem illegal and we know from previous research that a quarter of those aged between 18-34 think that money muling is a reasonable behaviour.”
– Crimewatch Live is on BBC1 and BBC iPlayer.