Up to 1,000 ‘money mule’ transactions totalling €12 million moved through accounts in 2020
Banks launch major awareness campaign to highlights dangers of money muling to young people and their parents as new research shows 36% of 18-24 year olds claim they are likely to act as money mules
Monday, 21st September 2020 – New figures released today by FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), show that up to 1,000 incidents of money mule transactions totalling in excess of €12 million have moved through bank accounts to date in 2020. The vast majority of those incidents, 98%, have involved bank accounts belonging to those aged between 18 and 24 years of age.
The figures come as the banking industry, through its FraudSMART initiative, launches a major awareness campaign highlighting the scale, dangers and consequences of money muling to both young people and their parents. The ‘Don’t be a mule’ campaign is also advising parents and children on the warning signs and red flags 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
The week-long FraudSMART campaign is being supported by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) as well as RTÉ broadcaster and parent Miriam O’Callaghan and social media influencers Miriam Mullins and Darragh Taheny. It comes in advance of Europol’s annual global money mule campaign involving up to 30 countries and over 600 banks, including BPFI and its member banks, which is targeted at cracking down on money mule schemes both operationally and via a large scale awareness drive.
Olivia Buckley, who leads the FraudSMART 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. The aim of this campaign is to help young people to be on red alert when it comes to criminals posing as employers. What can appear as a harmless action to a young person can have serious consequences and that’s what we want to prevent”.
“We know that teens are particularly at risk because they are targeted on social media in what appears to be a friendly approach by the criminal and attracted by the prospect of ‘easy’ money in return for something which appears as simple as using their bank account to lodge of transfer money. It is crucial that young people are aware of the risks of money muling and how they can avoid getting caught up in it and equally important that parents play a role in talking to their children about the dangers and consequences of money muling. 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.
Ms Buckley continued: “The consequences are serious and can have a lifelong effect. 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. 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 of technology. And if you think you child may have become a victim, parents should contact their local Garda station and inform their bank immediately.”
Also speaking today RTE broadcaster and parent Miriam O’Callaghan said: “This is such a worrying trend among young people and as a mum with teenagers, I was only delighted to lend my voice to this campaign to try and highlight, among parents, the importance of sitting down with our children and educating them about the dangers of money muling. Anyone’s child could become a vulnerable victim of money muling, so it is really important to have these conversations with them, so they know the extent of the dangers of getting involved in this type of criminal offence.”
USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “In partnership with FraudSmart, the USI urges students and young people to be extra vigilant when dealing with people who may be criminals posing as potential employers seeking to launder illegal or stolen money in their bank accounts. It’s important to be aware of the legalities, stay informed of what is happening in your local area and remain cautious if approached to engage in money laundering.
“Money muling might initially appear to be desirable as an easy fix for money worries to those who are struggling financially. However, there are serious repercussions for the crime of money laundering. We want to ensure students are informed of the penalties to prevent students from finding themselves in a troublesome situation. If anyone is concerned with falling victim to a scam or money mulling, they should contact the Gardaí immediately.”
This year’s Fraud Awareness Week campaign, which runs from the 21st to 27th September, includes a range of activity outreaching to young people and their parents. A host of material including information leaflets for young people and parents can be found at www.fraudsmart.ie. The week will also see the rollout of a radio and social media campaign in addition to support by FraudSMART members banks and institutions through a range of channels online and in branch.
Contact: Jillian Heffernan, Head of Communications, 087 9016880 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Research was carried out by Coyne Research on behalf of BPFI FraudSMART using a nationally representative omnibus sample of 1,000 adults.
- The ‘Don’t be a Mule’ Campaign comprises:
- Social Media Influencer Videos targeted at teenagers
- Ambassador Videos aimed at Parents
- Online Leaflets for both Teenagers and Parents
- National radio advertising campaign
- Website advice on 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 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 100 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here. www.bpfi.ie