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'Money mule' recruiters tricking Irish third-level students into handing over bank details 

Spikes in money mule recruiting activity are often seen at the start of new terms, according to experts in the field of fraud.

Image: Shutterstock/smolaw

FRESHERS IN IRISH colleges across the country have been targeted by so-called money mule recruiters in recent weeks, TheJournal.ie has learned.

The “money mule” practice involves criminals recruiting people to help launder stolen or illegal money using their bank account, often unwittingly.

Gardaí have said students are often targeted by the practice. 

Spikes in money mule recruiting activity are often seen at the start of new terms, according to experts in the field of fraud, who say young people are often tricked into sharing their account details with criminals in order to earn some extra cash.

The money mule recruiters (often referred to by police as ‘herders’) have been active outside college campuses across Dublin city centre, sources have told TheJournal.ie.

In some instances, students have been asked to complete online surveys in return 

In one instance outside a Dublin third level institution this week, students were being offered the chance to earn money for surveys in return for small amounts of money. Students are also being targeted with similar offers via social media posts. 

As part of the process many students may have unwittingly allowed criminals use their accounts, banking industry sources said – as they are asked to provide their bank details to make sure they get paid.  

Head of Fraud for the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), Niamh Davenport, described how criminals are attaining financial information from young people with offers easy money.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Davenport said: “What we are seeing more and more is people unwittingly getting involved in money laundering.

“There are people out there who are recruiting people from schools and from colleges. There are some people who know they are being recruited and there are those who haven’t a clue. 

“Away from actually meeting people face to face, there are quite blatant ads on Snapchat especially as well as private groups on social media pages. There are ones which say ‘earn up to €50 at home’, these kind of ones.”

Detective Inspector, Catriona Gunne, urged young people to understand the consequences of letting another person use their bank account. She said: 

“If caught, there is the breach of contract with the bank, the prospect of a criminal record as a money mule, and even the possibility of aiding other criminal activities funded by the proceeds of money laundered through your account. Being unaware is not a defence, the bottom line is you are acting illegally.”

According to a recent survey carried out by fraud awareness initiative FraudSmart, 43% of 18-24-year olds are ‘likely or very likely’ to lodge or transfer money for someone using their own bank account in exchange for keeping some of the money for themselves. This makes them the age group most susceptible to becoming money mules, compared with an overall average of 29% of adults across all age brackets surveyed.

The chance to earn a “quick buck” is a tactic used by fraudsters to recruit money mules, who are promised a share of the proceeds in exchange for their bank account details. The survey also revealed that 14% of 18-24-year olds say that they or someone they know have already been approached by another person looking to use their bank details to store money for someone else.

When asked about transferring money, the figure jumps to one in five (19%) of young adults aged 18-24 who reported that they or someone they know have been asked by a third party for their bank details to carry out a transaction. This compares to just 12% of adults aged 25+, with older age cohorts overall less likely to be approached.

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