Rise in the number of middle-aged money mules

Middle-aged people are increasingly being lured into becoming ‘money mules’ and their bank accounts used to launder proceeds of crime, a new report suggests.

Jun 18, 2019
By Tony Thompson

More than 40,000 cases which “bore the hallmarks” of money mule activity were reported to UK fraud prevention service Cifas last year, up 26 per cent on 2017. The largest rise – 35 per cent – was among those aged between 41 and 60.

Typically, money mules are targeted through social media sites with the promise of making easy cash.

Often criminals pose as genuine employers advertising jobs. A money mule shares their bank details, allowing cash, which may be the proceeds of crime, to flow through their account and into other accounts – potentially so that other crimes can be committed.

Fraudsters invariably target people who do not have a criminal background, in the hope that payments go unnoticed. As older people may be more likely to be approved for credit, and this age group is increasingly going online, they are finding themselves targeted, Cifas said in its annual report Fraudscape.

Money mules may not initially realise they are committing a crime but those who try to stop are often threatened with violence.

If they are caught, they could face prison, as well as consequences of having their bank account closed and finding it difficult to apply for credit in the future.

The research also found that young adults and the over-60s bore the brunt of a surge in identity scams last year, with the overall number of such cases increasing to a record high. Identity fraud significantly increased in 2018, with 189,108 cases recorded – an eight per cent increase on 2017’s figures. Many cases involved “plastic cards”, Cifas said.

Chief executive of Cifas, Mike Haley, said: “Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud. From identity theft through to using the young and naive as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.”

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