Recently, university students have been increasingly targeted by criminals to facilitate their illegal money laundering operations. As anti-money laundering systems improve and law enforcement agencies become stricter, criminals are finding creative ways to make dirty money appear legal.
Why are students vulnerable to this type of crime?
Young people, including students, can often encounter financial pressures which make them vulnerable to money laundering scams and targeted as ‘money mules’ by organised criminals. A money mule is someone who allows criminals or fraudsters to ‘launder’ (or transfer) money through their bank account in return for cash, in order to transfer the profits from criminal activity through the UK banking system. Adverts can appear online through a social media post offering cash rewards for little work.
If you become a money mule your bank account may be closed or frozen and you may be drawn into criminal activity without realising it. You could even be charged with a criminal offence and face a prison sentence of up to 14 years. The UK National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) has recently frozen a number of bank accounts belonging to students because their accounts were suspected of being used in significant money laundering operations.
How you can stay protected
To prevent yourself from becoming a ‘money mule’ please follow these basic guidelines:
• Be careful of emails or messages from anyone offering you cash or payments in return for accepting payments into your bank account
• Do not share your bank details with anyone that you don’t know and trust – particularly if it’s a stranger who has contacted you by email or social media
• Be vigilant - look out for any unusual activity in your bank account (for example, if you see that money has been deposited into your account and then removed)
• Be aware that the consequences of becoming a ‘money mule’ can be serious
If you think that your bank account may have been misused, or that you have become involved in a scam or money laundering activity, talk directly with your bank about this. Alternatively you could report the issue to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting the Action Fraud website. You could also contact International Student Support, DSU Advice or DMU Security.
The British Council’s Creating Confidence booklet contains information about money laundering, along with comprehensive guidance about staying safe and secure. The website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCIA) also contains guidance about frauds and scams.
We want you to study in a safe and supported environment. That’s why we have an effective and efficient security service in place to keep you protected. Being vigilant and using your bank account carefully should help ensure that your time studying at DMU is safe, enjoyable and trouble-free.
Posted on Wednesday 10th April 2019