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New data reveals young people increasingly at risk of fraud

7 March 2018
  • Identity fraud victims aged 21 and under increase by 30% in 2017
  • Cifas members also saw a 36% increase of under 21s acting as ‘money mules’
  • New figures published as Cifas and PSHE Association launch new ‘anti-fraud’ lessons plans

Today, Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released new figures showing stark increases in the number young people acting as ‘money mules’ and those falling victim to identity fraud.  The data has been released to coincide with the launch of new anti-fraud lessons plans, developed by Cifas, in collaboration with the PSHE Association, the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic education in schools. 

The new figures reveal that Cifas members identified 8,474 cases in relation to under-21-year-olds acting as money mules, 2,256 more than 2016.  This is when an individual allows their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds, a form of money laundering.  Acting as a money mule is a serious criminal offence, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years. Furthermore, the new figures also show that 2,321 under 21s were victims of identity fraud, an increase of 541 compared to the previous year.  

Together with the PSHE Association, and in response to increasing numbers of young people affected by fraud, either being targeted by online fraudsters or unwittingly engaging in fraudulent acts themselves, Cifas has created four Anti-Fraud Education lessons plans, targeted at 11-16 year olds, raising awareness of fraud, common scams, identity fraud and money mules.

Chief Executive of Cifas Simon Dukes, says:
"As our new figures show, it is critical that we take every opportunity to educate young people on how to protect themselves from being either fraud victims or fraud perpetrators. 

"Cifas, industry, government and law enforcement recognise more needs to be done to raise awareness of fraud and financial crime. When it comes to acting as a money mule, unwittingly or not, it is a serious crime that, not only has consequences for the individual concerned, but also for society as a whole.

"On behalf of the Home Office-led Joint Fraud Taskforce, Cifas has launched these new lessons plans with the PSHE Association, to educate young people about how serious this fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.  It also provides young people with an understanding of the protective behaviours needed to keep themselves safe from online scams and identity fraud more widely."

Chief Executive of the PSHE Association Jonathan Baggaley, says:
"PSHE education supports students to leave school ‘economically literate’ – ready to face an increasingly complex world full of new risks and opportunities. As online scams become a ubiquitous concern, and fraudsters specifically target young people, these new anti-fraud PSHE lessons could not be released at a more relevant and important time.

"The new materials will introduce students to the risks of online identity fraud and being recruited as a money mule, while exploring the wider importance of online safety and economic wellbeing through a planned PSHE programme." 

Security and Economic Crime Minister, Ben Wallace, says:
"Protecting young and vulnerable people from becoming victims of fraud or financial harm is a key priority for this Government and I welcome these new lesson plans which will be vital in giving young people the confidence to spot a fraudulent approach.

 "It is an excellent example of the collaborative nature of the Joint Fraud Taskforce, which sees Government, law enforcement and industry working together to tackle some of the toughest fraud issues to protect the public and increase awareness of fraud." 

The lesson plans cover Key Stage 3 and 4. The two lesson plans for Key Stage 3 students introduce the concept of fraud and the importance of digital literacy and data protection within the context of financial risk. The two lesson plans for Key Stage 4 build on this learning by encouraging students to think about their responsibility for financial information in more independent contexts.

The lesson plans aim to help students to:

  • Recognise what fraud is, why they may be targeted and how to seek support;
  • Explain the consequences of committing fraud;
  • Develop skills to protect their online information and personal data;
  • Develop skills to critically evaluate the reliability of online content in relation to scams.

Additionally, Cifas is encouraging teachers to use two previous campaign films as extra resources:

  • Data to Go – Created in partnership with BBH London, this 'hidden camera' film highlights just how easy it is for criminals to get your personal information from the Internet. 
  • Sponsor a Child Trafficker – Also created in partnership with BBH London, this film looks at the devastating consequences that money mules (people who allow their bank accounts to be used to launder money) enable. 

The lesson plans are currently available to download from the PSHE Association website (where they are included as a Quality Assured PSHE resource), and the Cifas website.


Notes to editors:

Table 1 – Yearly comparison  Under 21 victim of bank account (money mule) cases


Under 21





Percentage change





Table 2 – Yearly comparison – Under 21 victim of impersonation (identity fraud) cases


Under 21





Percentage change




A full breakdown of Cifas 2017 figures will be available in April when our annual statistics report, Fraudscape, is published. 

About Cifas

Cifas (pronounced ci like eye, fas like mass) exists to prevent fraud and financial crime. We are an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation that protects businesses and individuals through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. In 2017, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1 billion of fraud losses.

Cifas data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime. Every day, we send approximately 800 fraud cases to the City of London Police for potential investigation. Cifas also offers Protective Registration for individuals whose identities are at risk of being used fraudulently, for instance after a burglary. We also run a scheme called Protecting the Vulnerable, offered free of charge to local authorities to protect those under the care of Court Deputies who are unable to access financial products and whose identities may be at risk.

About the PSHE Association

The PSHE Association is the national body for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. PSHE education is a school subject that supports pupils to be healthy, safe and prepared for modern life. The PSHE curriculum covers a range of pressing issues facing children and young people today, including those relating to relationships, mental and physical health, staying safe and aware online, financial literacy and careers.

The PSHE Association is a charity and membership organisation, working to improve PSHE education standards by supporting over 20,000 teachers and schools with advice, training and support. Find out more at

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Samee
T: +44 (0)20 3004 3609

Victoria Steadman
T: +44 (0)20 3004 3644


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22 March 2018

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

27 November 2017

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.

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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