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New data reveals stark increase in young people acting as ‘money mules’

27 November 2017
  • 75 per cent rise in the misuse of bank accounts by 18 to 24 year olds in past year, with 8,652 cases between January and September 2017
  • Acting as a money mule will result in a bank account being closed, making it hard to obtain student loans, mobile phone contracts or other financial products 
  •  Cifas and Financial Fraud Action UK launch ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign to deter young people from becoming money mules

New data released today shows a sharp rise in the number of 18 to 24 year olds who are letting their bank accounts be used to transfer the proceeds of crime.

The statistics reveal a 75 per cent increase in the misuse of bank accounts involving 18 to 24 year olds during the first nine months of 2017, compared to the same period last year. This is where an account, policy or product is misused by the genuine account holder. The most common example of this is when an individual acts as a ‘money mule’, which means they allow their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds.

The data has been released by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, to coincide with the launch of a joint campaign with Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), the body that leads the fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. The ‘Don’t Be Fooled’ campaign aims to deter young people – in particular, students – from becoming money mules. 

Young people and students are particularly vulnerable as fraudsters know they are often short of cash. Criminals may approach them with what looks like a genuine job offer, asking them to receive money into their bank account and transfer it onto someone else, keeping some of the cash for themselves.

According to the figures, there were 8,652 cases of ‘misuse of facility’ cases amongst 18 to 24 year olds between January and the end of September this year. This represents 35 per cent of all cases during that period.

The 2017 figures also demonstrate a dramatic rise in money mule fraud over the last five years, with cases involving 18-24-year-olds more than doubling since 2013.

Through ‘Don’t Be Fooled’, FFA UK and Cifas want to highlight that, if you become a money mule, you are involved in money laundering. Banks have sophisticated systems in place to track fraudulent transactions and, when a person is caught misusing their account in this way, it will be closed, and they will find it difficult to open an account elsewhere. Having no bank account makes it hard to obtain student loans, mobile phone contracts or other financial products. A person convicted of money laundering could even face up to 14 years in prison. 

The organised criminal gangs behind money mule scams often use the proceeds of crime to commit other serious offences such as drug and people trafficking, sexual exploitation and terrorism. Cifas has developed a new film to bring these consequences to life. 

Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing, at UK Finance – the organisation behind FFA UK  said:
“Money muling is money laundering and criminals are using young people as mules in increasing numbers. We know that students are particularly vulnerable as they are often short of cash. That’s why we have launched the Don’t Be Fooled campaign.

“When you’re caught, your bank account will be closed, making it difficult to access cash and credit. You could even face up to 14 years in jail. We’re urging people not to give their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them. If an offer of easy money sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of Cifas, said: 
“Our new figures show that money muling amongst young people is on the rise. This is a serious issue that not only has consequences for the money mule, but for society as a whole. 

“The criminals behind money mules often use the cash to fund major crime, like terrorism and people trafficking. It’s this side of money muling that we want to raise awareness of with our new film. We want to educate young people about how serious this fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.”

More information about ‘Don’t Be Fooled’, and the Cifas film, can be found at


For more information, please contact Hannah Stewart on 020 7010 0843, or Rebecca Peck on 020 7010 0877.

Notes to editors:

1. The table below breaks down money mules cases between January and the end of September from 2013-2017. Please note that not all victims are recorded with a valid UK address or date of birth, so not all cases can be attributed to a regional or age breakdown. Additionally, where the fraud involves the use of an entirely fictitious identity, no victim details are recorded.  

Cifas compiles data from fraud cases that have been recorded on the National Fraud Database by 277 organisations. Its members only record confirmed frauds to its databases – i.e. where there is sufficient and clear evidence that a fraud has taken place.

Age breakdown of misuse of bank account cases (‘money mules’)


Under 21






Over 60

















% change
























2. Behaviours that put you at risk of becoming a money mule

  • Responding to job adverts or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work; 
  • Failing to research a potential employer, particularly one based overseas, before handing over your personal or financial details to them;
  • Allowing an employer, or someone you don’t know and trust, to use your bank account to transfer money.

3. How to protect yourself

  • No legitimate company will ever ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. Don’t accept any job offers that ask you to do this; 
  • Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they really are legitimate;
  • Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know and trust.

4. FFA UK is part of UK Finance. It is responsible for leading the collective fight against financial fraud on behalf of the UK payments industry. Its membership includes banks, credit, debit and charge card issuers, and card payment acquirers in the UK.


5. Cifas is a not-for-profit fraud prevention membership organisation. It is the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, managing the largest confirmed fraud database in the country. Its members are organisations from all sectors, sharing their data across those sectors to reduce instances of fraud and financial crime.


New data reveals young people increasingly at risk of fraud

7 March 2018

New figures released today show stark increase in the number of young people acting as ‘money mules’ and those falling victim to identity fraud.


Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) joins Cifas

1 November 2017

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), Scotland’s student funding body for Higher Education, has become the latest organisation to become a member of the National Fraud Database.

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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