The latest research carried out by Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has revealed a sharp rise in those over the age over 40 acting as ‘money mules’. Money muling occurs when an individual receives money into their bank account and transfers it elsewhere, often with the promise that that they can keep a portion of the cash for themselves. This kind of criminal activity could result in the complicit person’s bank account being closed, as well as difficulty in obtaining financial products including loans and mortgages. In some cases it may even result in a prison sentence.
Cifas research shows a 25% increase in money muling activity in those aged 41-50 over the nine months up until September, and a 26% rise among those aged 51-60. Much work has been done recently by banks and the wider anti-fraud community to raise awareness of the consequences of money muling among young people, which may be leading fraudsters to turning their sights towards older victims.
However, younger people are still responsible for the largest proportion of money mule activity, with those under 40 contributing 83% of the total number of incidents reported. The research reveals that the rate of growth is stalling among these age groups – decreasing by 6% for those under the age of 21.
Despite this, the fight is far from over as BBC Money Box recently found while carrying out an undercover investigation. A reporter unearthed several attempts to manipulate people into committing financial fraud, including a 16-year old who offered the reporter £400 to cash out a deposit into their bank account.
In another case, a teenager asked the reporter to cash £30,000 worth of cheques in exchange for a share of the funds. In a third case, an international university student told the reporter of a man posing as a student who claimed to be part of a money muling gang targeting university students as they were less likely to generate suspicion.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: “This research tells a bittersweet story. On the one hand, it’s clear that efforts to educate younger people about the risks of participating in fraud is paying off, but on the other hand there remains a vulnerability among older audiences which fraudsters are happy to exploit. Middle-aged people need to be increasingly vigilant of being targeted by fraudsters and understand that the consequences of being a money mule can be devastating and life-changing, both for them and their families.”