Sharp Rise in Young Brits Becoming Money Mules

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More Brits under-21 are falling victim to identity fraud and acting as money mules than ever before, according to new figures from Cifas.

The non-profit fraud prevention service revealed new figures today claiming its members have identified a 24% increase in young victims of so-called “impersonation fraud” in the first nine months of the year, versus the same period in 2017. This type of fraud occurs when scammers use a victim’s identity to open new accounts, hijack existing ones or buy products in their name.

The largest segment of impersonation fraud affecting this age group related to payment cards (34%), an increase of 79% over the same nine-month period last year.

But the under-21s aren’t just victims of fraud, they’re increasingly also helping online scammers to launder money — a vital role in the cybercrime ecosystem.

Cifas noted a 26% rise in the identification of money mules: individuals who, often unwittingly, are recruited to receive stolen funds, withdraw them and then wire to another account, often abroad.

Although the crime carries with it a maximum penalty of 14 years behind bars, it appears many young bank account owners are attracted by the opportunity to make money quickly and easily.

Cifas CEO, Mike Haley, called for a broader education effort on the part of parents, teachers and banks.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

The latest figures from Cifas released in August revealed identity fraud had fallen for the first time in four years, by 5% in the first six month of 2018 versus the same period last year.

However, identity fraud against online retail accounts rose by 24% during the period, while Cifas also recorded a rise in fraudulent applications for credit and debit cards (12%).

In April, Cifas claimed identity fraud had hit an all-time-high in the UK.

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