Students warned of risks as €17.5m illegally transferred through money mule accounts in H1 2023- a rise of almost 50% according to new FraudSMART figures
- FraudSMART members reported over 2,600 mule accounts identified in the first half of 2023 alone.
- Majority of money mule bank accounts belonged to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age with some as young as 15
- Average amount moved through accounts in the region of €10K
- As college term starts, students warned to be vigilant to approaches online particularly social media adverts
- Minister Simon Harris joins USI to launch new FraudSMART TikTok and Snapchat campaign to drive awareness
Friday 8th September 2023 – New figures released today by FraudSMART, show that almost €17.5m was illegally transferred through money mule accounts in H1 2023, a rise of almost 50% on figures from the same period in 2022. A money mule is someone who receives criminal money into their bank account and transfers it into another account, often in return for money or an expensive gift. FraudSMART members identified over 2,600 money mule accounts in the first half of this year with the average amount moved through the accounts in the region of €10k, more than double the average amount observed in H1 2022. The majority of money mule bank accounts continue to belong to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age with some as young as 15.
As the new college terms start back, FraudSMART is warning all consumers, particularly students, to be vigilant to the risks and consequences of being recruited as a money mule and are highlighting red flags to watch out for to protect themselves.
Speaking on today’s figures, Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial Crime, BPFI said: “Today’s figures from FraudSMART members show a significant rise in money mule activity with over €17.5m illegally transferred through money mule accounts in the first half of this year a rise of almost 50% on the same period last year (€12m). This may reflect increased levels of activity in text message scams and investment fraud observed by FraudSMART in recent months, as criminals seek ways to launder their profits.”
Young people and students often targeted by gangs
Ms Davenport continued: “While people of any age are susceptible to becoming a money mule, our members have observed that the majority of money mule bank accounts belong to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age. Criminals frequently target young adults, usually recruiting them through social media ads and messages, but they are also known to approach young people in-person outside schools, colleges, or sports clubs. The money transferred by money mules are proceeds of crime, often stolen from innocent victims of text message scams and other types of fraud that our own friends and family can fall victim to. Not only that, but the money being laundered is often used by criminals to facilitate other serious crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling. This is why the consequences faced for money muling are so serious and can result in a criminal record.”
FraudSMART, with support from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris and the Union of Students Ireland (USI), is launching a month-long social media campaign #DontBeAMule through Snapchat and TikTok in order to raise awareness among young adults.
Minister Harris, speaking at the launch of the campaign, said: “I’m delighted to support the launch of the new FraudSMART Money Mules campaign along with USI. Money muling is not a victimless or harmless crime and has serious consequences for your future. With this campaign we’re raising awareness among students and young people about the risks of being targeted by criminal gangs through social media. College is such an important time for learning, making life-long friends and preparing for future careers so I’m calling on all students today to know the warning signs, protect themselves and avoid becoming involved in money muling.”
Colette Murphy, USI Vice President for Welfare, added: “The new college term is an exciting time for many students, but it is often also a time of increased financial pressure, and we understand the temptation of offers to earn ‘quick and easy money’. But we want to make sure students are aware of the risks of being coerced, conned, or tempted into working with fraudsters through social media posts or seemingly legitimate job adverts. Getting caught up in money mulling can have a long-term impact on your future. It could affect your ability to get loans or to travel to many places, including to Australia or on a J1. We know college can be a very expensive time and we urge any student worried about college expenses, or any other aspects of college life, to talk to their Students’ Union who will be able to advise them on the supports available.”
Top things to look out for to avoid falling victim to money mule recruiters:
- Be very cautious of unsolicited emails or approaches promising opportunities to make easy money, particularly on social media.
- Thoroughly research any work from home opportunities and do not get involved unless you are sure the business is legitimate.
- Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
- Never allow your bank account to be used by someone else.
- If you have been approached to act as a money mule or have been a victim of this type of crime, report it to your local Garda Station and contact your bank.
Don’t forget, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. More information, alerts and tips can be found on www.fraudsmart.ie.
About FraudSMART: FraudSMART is a fraud awareness initiative developed by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) in conjunction with the following member banks, Allied Irish Bank plc, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, PermanentTSB, Ulster Bank, An Post Money and Barclays. The programme aims to raise consumer and business awareness of the latest financial fraud activity and trends and provide simple and impartial advice on how best they can protect themselves and their resources. www.fraudsmart.ie
About BPFI: Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland. Together with its affiliates, the Federation of International Banks in Ireland, and the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland, BPFI has over 125 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here.