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Don’t be fooled – campaign to target money mules launched

Paul Wenlock - Head of the force's economic crime unit

Leicestershire Police has today (Thursday 29 August) launched a campaign to warn young people about the dangers of becoming money mules.

The Don’t Be Fooled campaign was launched nationally at the end of last year and has been devised by UK Finance and Cifas to deter students from becoming money mules, by educating them about what the term means, how criminals operate, why they are a target and the consequences of taking part in such schemes.

UK Finance is a trade association which represents the banking and finance industry operating in the UK and Cifas is a non-profit making fraud prevention membership organisation.

Nationally there has been an increase in cases where young people are being asked to receive and send money through their own bank accounts, sometimes enticing them by allowing them to keep some of the cash for themselves.

Since April this year more than 30 suspects have been issued with Cease and Desist Notices for money mule activity, therefore disrupting further criminality. Other methods are also available to the fraud investigators including community resolutions or criminal charges.

In Leicestershire, between April 2009 and May 2018, 4,850 suspected money mule accounts were closed by the banks. Of those, 2,943 closures were for individuals aged 30 and under.

The campaign also aims to alert parents to this fraud and look out for tell-tale signs that their child may be involved, such as suddenly having extra cash, buying expensive clothes or top-of-the-range gadgets with little explanation of where they got the money.

Officers from the force’s economic crime unit have also delivered a presentation to key people at the local universities and colleges to make them aware of the campaign and enlist their support in getting the message across to students.

Paul Wenlock of Leicestershire Police’s economic crime unit praised the campaign. He said:  “We are pleased to support the national campaign.  These schemes are of great concern to us and we have seen a steady increase locally in the number of people being drawn in to taking part.  There may be various reasons why young people become involved but mainly it’s the promise of some easy money.

“Criminals need money mules to launder the profits of their crimes. Usually the mules will be unaware of where the money comes from, they can be approached online, including via social media sites, or in person.  Sometimes they may be persuaded by people who are doing it themselves.

“Young people may not know the consequences of agreeing to take part in this, when someone is caught their bank accounts can be closed, they may end up having problems getting a loan, mobile phone contracts or credit and future job prospects can be put into jeopardy if they get a criminal record.

“We would also ask parents, guardians and carers to be aware of this fraud and if they have any concerns to contact Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111 or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”

Liz Ward is the Student Welfare Manager at Gateway Sixth Form College in Leicester, she said: “As an educational provider, we feel strongly that all our students, whilst with us, have the opportunity to learn about some of the wider issues and concerns facing our society today.

“Money laundering, which is a criminal offence, appears to be a growing issue nationally, and young people need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognise it for what it is, know how to avoid it and also to have the confidence to report it.

“At Gateway College, we are raising awareness of this important topic with our students, and are fortunate to have the valuable support of our local police in highlighting the associated dangers of money mules and money laundering.”

Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud and Financial Crime Prevention, Cyber and Data Sharing at UK Finance, said:  “Criminals are using young people as money 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.

“We want to raise awareness of the fact that money muling is money laundering. 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.”

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