New figures released today by FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), show that in excess of €12m was illegally transferred via money mule accounts in H1 2022, with the number of bank accounts linked to money mules almost doubling to over 3,000 from a year earlier. With the average sum which is transacted through money mule accounts in the region of €4k, the data collected from FraudSMART members also shows that the majority of money mule accounts belonged to young adults, between 18 and 24 years of age, with some as young as 15.
As the cost of living crisis continues to put pressure on people’s finances, FraudSMART and An Garda Síochána are warning all consumers, particularly young people, to be alert to the risks and consequences of recruitment as money mules and are highlighting the red flags to watch out for to protect themselves from getting involved.
Financially Vulnerable Groups Most Susceptible to Becoming Targets
Speaking on today’s figures, Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial Crime, BPFI said: “With our latest figures showing a sharp increase in the numbers of money mule accounts in operation, we are appealing to all consumers to be on high alert to the dangers of this crime. Those most susceptible to being targeted are often financially vulnerable groups including students, those who are unemployed and people in economic hardship. And as the cost of living crisis deepens over the coming winter months we are particularly concerned that criminals engaging in money mule recruitment will seek to capitalise on this.”
“Unfortunately it can be all too easy to get caught out by the promise of quick and easy cash in exchange for for something which appears as simple as opening a new bank account on behalf of the criminal or using your bank account to lodge or transfer money. People can be conned unknowingly or coerced into working with fraudsters through social media posts, seemingly legitimate job adverts or even be approached directly in person.”
Ms Davenport continued: “And while on the surface this may seem like a harmless crime to those who get involved, what the money mules often don’t realise is that behind the façade of the quick cash schemes are organised criminal gangs who use the money mule’s bank account to launder money they’ve stolen often from innocent victims they’ve scammed. That is why the consequences for money muling are so serious.
As well as the prospect of a prison sentence and a criminal record, those who are caught will have their bank account closed and will have difficulty obtaining access to basic financial services including opening another account, getting loans or even a phone contract and entry into countries such as Australia or the United States will be denied. Therefore our strong message to all consumers today is know the warning signs and what to look out for to avoid becoming involved and if in doubt contact your bank or local garda station.”
For further information on fraud prevention tips and advice including on money mules, consumers can visit www.fraudsmart.ie
Top Thing 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.