Children as young as 14 are being recruited as money mules on social media

·2-min read
Social media - LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
Social media - LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

Children as young as 14 are being used as money mules by fraudsters on social media, official figures show.

The fraudsters recruit young people looking for work or money with offers of get-rich-quick jobs that involve them “loaning” their bank accounts to the criminals so they can launder their illicit profits, according to UK finance, the body representing 300 banks and finance firms.

More than four in 10 cases of money mules involved victims aged 21 to 30, with the numbers rising by 76 per cent in the first six months of this year alone, from 8,107 to 14,289.

The numbers being used as money mules rose by a similar amount - 78 per cent - among those under 21, from 3,962 to 7,033.

UK Finance intelligence also showed a notable increase in the use of cryptocurrency wallets being used to take stolen money outside of the banking system quickly.

In a report revealing that some frauds had more than doubled in the first six month of this year, UK Finance said: “We also saw changes in how criminals moved stolen money.

“They targeted people as young as 14 via social media platforms to become money mules, where their bank account is used to launder stolen money.”

'Criminals are cruelly preying on Generation Covid'

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Criminals are cruelly preying on ‘Generation Covid’ and those struggling to find work at this difficult time, by using fake job adverts online to recruit people as money mules.

“We would urge everyone to remain cautious about any offers of quick and easy money and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

She urged social media platforms to take swifter action to detect and take down content being used to promote money muling.

UK Finance said fraud in the UK had now risen to such a level that it posed a “national security threat”, with £754m stolen from bank customers during the first half of this year – a 30 per cent rise on the same period in 2020.

Losses from bank transfer scams leapt by 71 per cent to £355m during the first half of the year – almost £2m a day. There were a total of 106,164 cases of such fraud, equivalent to 12 people being defrauded every half an hour.

Impersonation scams – where criminals seized on people’s fears about the pandemic and pretended to be from trusted organisations such as the NHS or government departments in order to send out scam texts and emails – were up 123 per cent in the first six months of 2021 compared with the same period last year.

Investment scam losses, meanwhile, were up 95 per cent as criminals exploited the low interest rate environment to post adverts on social media offering high returns.

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