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Over 40% of 18-24-year olds willing to act as “Money Mules”  – new FraudSMART survey

10th April 2019

Gardai warn young adults are targets for bank details

Over 1,600 Money Mule cases reported by main Irish retail banks in 2018

An Garda Síochána in association with FraudSMART, a fraud awareness initiative led by the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), are advising consumers, particularly young adults, to be alert to the risks and consequences of recruitment as “money mules”.

The warning comes as a new survey commissioned by BPFI as part of its FraudSMART campaign for 2019 shows strong evidence of money mule activity among young people in Ireland. The practice involves criminals recruiting young people to help launder stolen or illegal money using their bank account – often unwittingly. FraudSMART aims to raise awareness of the latest financial fraud activity and trends, and how consumers and businesses can act to protect themselves.

According to the FraudSMART survey more than two in five (43%) of 18-24-year olds are likely or very likely to lodge or transfer money for someone using their own bank account in exchange for keeping some of the money for themselves. This makes them the age group most susceptible to becoming money mules compared with an overall average of 29% of adults across all age cohorts surveyed.

The chance to earn a “quick buck” is a tactic used by fraudsters to recruit money mules, who are promised a share of the proceeds in exchange for their bank account details. The survey also revealed that 14% of 18-24-year olds say that they or someone they know have already been approached by another person looking to use their bank details to store money for someone else.

When asked about transferring money, the figure jumps to one in five (19%) of young adults aged 18-24 who reported that they or someone they know have been asked by a third party for their bank details to carry out a transaction. This compares to just 12% of adults aged 25+, with older age cohorts overall less likely to be approached.

The FraudSMART research also mirrors new data from BPFI’s member banks, including AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, PTSB and Ulster Bank, who collectively had more than 1,600 confirmed cases of money mule activity on customer accounts in 2018, a large proportion of which involved young account holders.

Niamh Davenport, Head of Fraud Prevention who leads the BPFI FraudSMART programme, said: “We understand that young adults are trying to juggle work and study with an active social life, with all kinds of costs to cover and it can be very tempting when someone offers you the chance to earn extra cash quickly for little effort. Our research shows that two in five 18-24-year olds are likely to do just that in exchange for their bank details, backed up by data from our member banks which shows that money mules are a growing reality in Ireland today.

 We’re urging young people to be smart when it comes to money mule recruitment, whether it’s someone asking for a favour or promising payment. Know the warning signs, understand the risks and check with someone you really trust if you’re unsure. Equally, for teachers, parents, youth workers and friends to play their part in raising awareness so that more young people are on their guard. We know from experience that most of the recruitment happens online, but it’s having the conversation offline at home, college or work that could really make a difference to a young person you know.”

Gardai warn of consequences

Detective Inspector, Catriona Gunne, is urging young people to understand the consequences of letting another person use their bank account. She said: “If caught, there is the breach of contract with the bank, the prospect of a criminal record as a money mule, and even the possibility of aiding other criminal activities funded by the proceeds of money laundered through your account. Being unaware is not a defence, the bottom line is you are acting illegally.

When it comes to the perceived consequences, whether they knew the money was stolen or not, some 40% of 18-24-year olds surveyed by FraudSMART said jail was the most likely punishment or consequence, followed by the bank closing their account (26%), getting a hefty fine (21%) or receiving a caution (9%). Worryingly, some 4% did not think there would be any consequences at all.

To further highlight the issue, a team of up to 30 crime prevention officers from An Garda Síochána will be on college campuses around the country over the coming weeks to engage with students.

 

For reference:
Karen Jones, Gibney Communications, 01 661 0402 / 086 866 4501

Garda Press Office at www.garda.ie

Notes to Editors

The research was carried out by Core Research on behalf of BPFI FraudSMART in March 2019 using a nationally representative omnibus sample of 1,000 adults.

Money Mules Explained

Money Mules are people recruited by criminals to help transfer stolen or fraudulently obtained money from bank accounts. Money Mules can also be known as ‘money transfer agents’.

Criminals pose as employers and dupe targets into laundering money on their behalf. They contact prospective victims with a “job vacancy” advert online, on job search websites or in newspapers. These jobs are usually advertised as “Financial Manager” or “Payments Clerk” with no requirement other than having a bank account. The mule accepts the “job” and in doing so becomes involved in money laundering, which is a criminal activity.

Once recruited a Money Mule receives stolen funds into their account, this is followed by a request to transfer/forward the funds, minus their commission, usually overseas, using a money/wire transfer service. The money the mule is transferring is stolen, and what they are doing is called money laundering, which is illegal.

Top Tips

  1. Thoroughly research any work from home opportunities and do not get involved unless you are sure the business is legitimate. Verify any company that makes you a job offer and check their contact details (address, landline phone number, email address and website).
  2. Be very careful of unsolicited offers or opportunities to make easy money.
  3. Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate.
  4. Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
  5. Never allow your bank account to be used by someone else.
  6. If a job sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

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 and An Post. 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 70 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here. www.bpfi.ie

Further advice/information: www.garda.ie for crime prevention advice and contact details of local Garda Stations.

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