Criminals are always looking for new ways to clean their money and make it hard for authorities to trace it. For those who have already made gains from phishing scams, ransomware and identity fraud, Money Muling is a logical step (using similar tactics) to hide their money.
Criminals typically target younger people and students to be their money mules as they are often short of cash, in debt and have clean financial histories (so they are of little interest to government financial fraud investigators). The number of under 21s involved has tripled in the past three years according to Barclays Bank.
Ireland’s FraudSMART recently reported “36 per cent of the 18 to 24-year-olds in the country had acted as money mules this year alone, laundering €12m (£10.8m) since the start of 2020 in return for a small fee”. The research revealed, as in the UK, that nearly half of those involved had ever heard the term “money mule” before and few understood the risks they were taking.
As figures emerge from other countries, the global flow of illegal transfers adds up to a massive financial challenge. Awareness campaigns to date have focused on the youngest of adults, but UK fraud prevention service CIFAS, has warned of a growing trend where older adults are being targeted. Money muling activity was up by a quarter among 41 to 60-year-olds last year, as fraudsters turn away from increasingly aware and digitally savvy younger targets who have heard of friends getting into trouble this way. Under 40s are still responsible for more than 80 per cent of the incidents in the UK, but the number has plateaued and is dropping among the under 21s.