Lets face Facts, Students and People, know, Exactly, what they are Getting into, by Giving their Bank Details, over, for Money Laundering?

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Over €12 million was illegally transferred by ‘money mules’ in the first half of 2022

 26th October 2022

Gardaí have warned college students of the dangers of becoming a “money mule” as new figures show the issue is on the rise.

Over €12 million was illegally transferred by ‘money mules’ in the first half of 2022© Shutterstock

Third-level students are one of a number of groups likely to be targeted to act as money mules as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

A money mule is a person who allows their bank account to be used for the transfer of another person’s stolen or illegal money.

Those aged 18 to 24, and those over 55 years of age are the most commonly targeted age groups by organised crime gangs to act as money mules. Vulnerable individuals such as people who are new to the country, students or unemployed people are also likely to be targeted.

The penalties for acting as a money mule include a prison sentence of up to 14 years, a criminal conviction with a lifetime criminal record, extradition to the country where the predicate crime occurred and being forbidden from opening another bank account.

New figures released today by FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), show that in excess of €12 million was illegally transferred via money mule accounts in the first half of 2022, with the number of bank accounts linked to money mules almost doubling to over 3,000 from a year earlier.

The average sum transacted was around €4,000, FraudSMART said. The majority of money mule accounts belonged to young adults, with some as young as 15.

Niamh Davenport, the Head of Financial Crime at BPFI, said: “As the cost-of-living crisis deepens over the coming winter months, we are particularly concerned that criminals engaging in money mule recruitment will seek to capitalise on this.”

“Unfortunately it can be all too easy to get caught out by the promise of quick and easy cash in exchange for something which appears as simple as opening a new bank account on behalf of the criminal or using your bank account to lodge or transfer money.

“People can be conned unknowingly or coerced into working with fraudsters through social media posts, seemingly legitimate job adverts or even be approached directly in person,” Davenport added.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau estimate that there are at least 4,000 money mules linked to their investigations who have used Irish addresses. The vast majority are young people in all corners of Ireland.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said: “Those who agree to allow their bank account to be used for the transfer of illegally obtained money may not necessarily realise that they are enabling very dangerous international criminal organisations and are involving themselves with these criminals.

“It seems quite simple and at the same time quite lucrative, but the reality is that those who allow their bank account to be used are taking a huge personal risk. More than that, they are in essence assisting ruthless criminals involved in human trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism, and even wars.

“An Garda Síochána is sending this warning because it isn’t the hardened criminals face on CCTV at an ATM. It isn’t their phone number or bank account details linked to the transfer of illegal gains – it’s those of the money mule – if an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is. There is no easy money to be made”

The BPFI has given the following tips to avoid being caught out by money mule recruiters:

  • Thoroughly research any work from home opportunities and do not get involved unless you are sure the business is legitimate
  • Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them
  • Never allow your bank account to be used by someone else
  • If you have been approached to act as a money mule or have been a victim of this type of crime, report it to your local Garda Station and contact your bank

Earlier this month, Gardaí and Interpol searched nine premises in Dublin and Clare as part of an international investigation into online fraud crimes.

Since mid-August, an effort to target the laundering of proceeds from crimes such as international business email compromise, invoice re-direction fraud and romance fraud resulted in 62 charges of money laundering and three organised crime offences.

The issue of students being targeted specifically is not new: In 2019, The Journal reported that first-year students in colleges across the country were being targeted by money mule recruiters.

Last July, Gardaí contacted Higher Education Minister Simon Harris over concerns that a high number of third-level students are still being used to help launder money for criminal gangs.

Officers have been in touch with the Minister for Higher Education ahead of a planned awareness campaign around the issue.

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