Posted on 17 November 2019
Earlier this year the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) froze 95 bank accounts of students attending UK universities. These accounts were suspected of money laundering.
You might be approached by fraudsters online or in person. They might post what looks like a genuine job ad, then ask for your bank details. If you’re an international student, they might offer you a good exchange rate. They then ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. If you do this, you’re a money mule. You’re involved in money laundering, which is a crime.
Criminals need money mules to launder the profits of their crimes. Mules will usually be unaware of where the money comes from – fraud, scams and other serious crime – or where it goes. Once you become a money mule, it can be hard to stop. You could be attacked or threatened with violence if you don’t continue to let your account be used by criminals.
This is not a victimless crime. Money laundering supports organised crime and these criminal groups may be involved in human trafficking, child sexual abuse and exploitation or blackmail and extortion.
And, if you become a money mule, there can be very serious consequences. When you are caught, your bank account will be closed. You will find it difficult to access further student loans, it will be difficult to get a phone contract and you will have problems applying for credit. What’s more, you could go to prison for up to 14 years.
If you are concerned that you may have been targeted by a criminal gang to engage in money laundering, or you have identified suspicious activity affecting your bank account, you should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or crimestoppers-uk.org. This number is free, and you can report your concerns in complete confidence. You do not have to give your name.
We also recommend that you contact the Student Advice and Support team who can help and guide you. Email email@example.com or telephone 01904 324140.
More information and advice
Don’t Be Fooled is a partnership between UK Finance and Cifas. It aims to inform students and young people about the risks of giving out their bank details, and deter them from becoming money mules.
See also University information about other scams that target students.