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Young fraud victims on the rise: new data reveals 24% rise in under-21s falling victim to identity fraud

10 October 2018
  • New figures published by Cifas show an alarming increase in incidence of fraud among young people
  • Number of identity fraud victims among under-21s has reached a new peak, increasing by 24% in 2018
  • Cifas is urging banks to ‘do more to inform and educate young people’ as a 26% increase of under-21s acting as ‘money mules’ is also revealed

Today, Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released startling new figures showing a marked increase in the number young people falling victim to identity fraud.

The new figures reveal that Cifas members identified a 24% increase in cases of under-21-year-olds falling victim to impersonation fraud in the first nine months of this year, a significant rise from the same period in 2017. The majority of fraud for under-21s related to plastic payment cards - such as bank, debit, credit or store cards – with 34% of all cases reported in that sector, a 79% increase in the past year.

Cifas has also reported a steep rise in the number of young people acting as ‘money mules’, with a 26% rise in reported incidences in those aged 21-and-under between 2017 and 2018. So far in 2018, 9,636 under-21 money mule perpetrators were identified in the UK by Cifas members. Being a ‘money mule’ is when an individual allows their bank account to be used to facilitate the movement of criminal funds, a form of money laundering which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Cifas is now urging banks to do more to provide information to young people when they first open an account to warn them of the implications of becoming a money mule.

Chief Executive Officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, says:
"Our new figures are alarming to say the least. Young people are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of identify fraud, with little idea of how to protect themselves. For all of us, as parents, teachers, and responsible citizens, we have a duty to ensure we’re taking every opportunity to educate young people on the dangers of becoming a fraud victim – and equally, a perpetrator of fraud.

“As the rise in money mules demonstrates, many young people seem unaware of the risks they’re running and the consequences it can have not only for the individual concerned but for society as a whole. More needs to be done to raise awareness about the harm of fraud and financial crime.

“We’re calling on banks in particular to ensure that they are providing young people with the necessary knowledge to prevent them falling victim to fraud – or becoming fraud perpetrators.”

On behalf of the Home Office-led Joint Fraud Taskforce, Cifas recently launched new lesson plans with the PSHE Association to educate young people about how serious money mule fraud is in the hope that they will think twice before getting involved.

The lesson plans also provide young people with an understanding of the protective behaviours needed to keep themselves safe from online scams and identity fraud more widely.

PSHE Association Chief Executive, Jonathan Baggaley, says:
“The alarming increase in identity fraud and money mule crimes highlights the urgency of educating young people to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

“The PSHE education curriculum provides such opportunities and we were delighted to work with Cifas on PSHE lessons dedicated to helping young people to avoid fraud and understand the significant risks associated with becoming a money mule.”


For more information, please contact:

T: +44 (0)20 067 0008

Notes to editors:

Table 1 – Yearly comparison – Under 21 victim of impersonation (identity fraud) cases

Percentage Change
Under 21

Table 2 – Yearly comparison – Under 21 perpetrators of bank account (money mule) cases

Percentage Change
Under 21

About Cifas
Cifas 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.


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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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