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Majority of bank accounts used for money mule transactions belong to people aged 18-24

A new campaign aims to highlight the dangers for teens and encourage their parents to look out for red flags.

UP TO 1,000 incidents of money mule transactions totalling in excess of €12 million have moved through bank accounts to date in 2020, according to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

The majority of those incidents, 98%, have involved bank accounts belonging to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age.

BPFI released the figures as part of its FraudSmart campaign to raise awareness of the scale, dangers and consequences of money muling. 

The ‘Don’t be a mule’ campaign is also advising parents and children on the warning signs to watch for as money muling involves criminals recruiting young people to help launder stolen or illegal money using their bank account – often unwittingly.

New research conducted to coincide with this week’s campaign has shown that:

  • 36% of 18-24 year olds say they are likely to lodge or transfer money on behalf of someone else using their own bank account in exchange for keeping some of the money;
  • Over a quarter of 18-24 year olds claim to know someone who was approached to act as a money mule;
  • 44% of those surveyed had never heard of the term money mule;
  • Just 18% of parents of teenagers surveyed said they had discussed the issue of money mules and the risks with their teen.

Olivia Buckley, who leads the campaign on behalf of BPFI said criminals are relentless in their pursuit of money mules as they seek to move stolen money and very often present themselves online as prospective employers who can help young people make money through the use of their bank account.

“We’re encouraging parents and children to have this important conversation and to be on heightened alert, especially as young people make their way back to college.

“Money muling is money laundering and is a criminal offence.” 

She said teenagers are particularly at risk because they are targeted on social media in what appears to be a friendly approach by the criminal.

“It is not a way to make easy or fast money and if your child gets involved, knowingly or unknowingly, they are participating in money laundering which is a criminal offence and can carry up to 14-year imprisonment,” Buckley said.

“Teens who are recruited as money mules can be threatened with violence or physically attacked if they do not continue to allow their account to be used by the criminals to transfer money.

“As well as having a criminal record, money mules who are caught face having their bank account closed and will have difficulty opening another account and accessing loans or other credit facilities in the future.”

She said parents need to watch out for the red flags such as their child suddenly having extra money and the appearance of increased spending on new clothes or technology.

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