Avoid falling into the money mule trap

Emma Potter

 · 06/09/2021  · 06/09/2021

Over the past few years, there’s been an increase in young people allowing their accounts to be used to receive and move money on behalf of third parties. This money often originates from crime. Accounts used to launder criminal funds are called ‘mule accounts’, making the account holder a ‘money mule’.

Young and vulnerable people are increasingly being recruited as money mules and are often unaware that this means they’re involved in money laundering - which is a crime. Anyone allowing their account to be used for this can end up with a criminal record or a prison sentence.

Modern money muling

Young people are often recruited as 'money mules' through social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, other messaging such as texting and WhatsApp, or in person at their school, university or sports clubs. They can be lured by the offer of money for allowing their account to be used, convinced they’re doing so as a favour, or can be coerced to get involved.

It may seem like an easy way to make money, but as well as being illegal, being a 'money mule' means they may also be helping to fund serious crimes such as people trafficking, terrorism and drug smuggling.

If an account is used for money laundering, it can lead to the loss of that account and it could be difficult to get a new one.

The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to fraud and scams.

Spot the signs:

  • Don’t share your account details with anyone unless you know and trust them
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers of easy money, because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Look out for friends or family who suddenly have extra cash, or start buying expensive new clothes or electronics with little to no explanation as to how they got the money
  • Be alert to any changes in their behaviour - someone involved in 'money muling' may become more secretive, withdrawn or appear stressed
  • Don’t contact anyone you suspect of organising 'money muling'. This could tip off criminals. Instead, contact the police on a non-emergency number, or if you’re in the UK, call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

If you, or someone you know, have received job offers or been contacted in a way that mirrors any of these red flags, get in touch with the police and contact Revolut or your banking provider straight away. You could help prevent others from unwittingly becoming money mules and even help catch the criminals.