Barclays have revealed that the number of students being used as money mules is on the rise, with data showing that the number of under-21s being recruited has increased by 97% between 2016 and 2018.
While the overall number of mules has decreased, there is a concern that students have become a more desirable target for criminals over the last few years. This is due to a number of vulnerabilities that students have, such as financial worries and their lack of awareness about the signs of money laundering.
As many as 6 in 10 university students worry about their finances on a weekly basis. In addition to this, 57% said they would be tempted by a “too good to be true” job offer and 50% saying that they would be interested in a job that was advertised as “free money from the comfort of your own home.”
Money issues are compounded by the lack of understanding students have about the signs of money laundering and the legal consequences that can occur if they are used as a money mules.
Half of students asked did not know what a ‘money mule’ was, and a huge 74% of students were unaware that being caught laundering money could lead to a lengthy prison sentence.
In order to prevent students falling victim to these scams, Barclays have provided some advice for students at the beginning of this new semester – the most vulnerable time of the year for students.
First, and most importantly, it is vital that your account details are not given to anyone who you don’t know or trust. If you have any concerns about your finances, or you think someone is attempting to use you as a money mule, then talk to someone who you trust completely – family, friends, or university tutors.
An unsolicited offer of easy money is the most common tactic used in crimes of this type. So, if you encounter this scenario, ask yourself: Is this offer too good to be true? If the answer is yes, then it probably is. Giving away your bank details can have a huge impact in your life – make sure you think about whether or not it is worth the risk.
Ross Martin, Head of Digital Safety at Barclays, said: “We know criminal gangs are ruthlessly targeting cash-strapped students on campuses across the UK, with the aim of tricking them into laundering their dirty money.
“Worryingly, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of student money who unwittingly allow criminals to access their bank accounts.”