Be vigilant of money mule and phone fraud scammers

Each year thousands of people, including university students are targeted by criminals. We are reminding our students to stay vigilant and to be aware of the ways they can be subjected to, or become unwittingly involved in criminal activity. 


One of the ways students are being targeted by fraudsters is through online job adverts. These adverts can sometimes appear on social media, offering the chance to make hundreds of pounds for very little work. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This could make you into a ‘money mule’ and you could be prosecuted, as money laundering supports organised and serious crime.

What is a ‘money mule’?

A money mule is someone who allows 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.

Your bank account may be closed or frozen and you may be involved in criminal activity without realising. You will find it difficult to access further student loans, it will be difficult to get a phone contract and you could go to prison for up to 14 years.

How to stay protected

There are ways you can protect yourself from becoming a ‘money mule’:

  • Be careful of messages or calls from anyone offering you money 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 phone, 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.

Phone fraud 

Criminals are also targeting students, especially international students, over the phone, claiming to be organisations such as the Home Office, an embassy, the police, or a bank.

They will usually say you have committed a crime or offence, or that there is some kind of immigration problem. The criminal will often demand money, sometimes calling it a ‘fine’, or they might ask you to provide personal information or bank details.

The caller may give you their name and telephone number to try to convince you that they are genuine. They will speak in a dramatic way, talking about deportation or cancelling your visa. This is a common fraudster technique to cause panic and pressurise you to pay the fake fine.

If you receive such a call:

  • DO NOT make a payment of any kind
  • DO NOT give the caller any personal information and do not confirm that any information they have is correct.

If you think your bank account may have been misused, or that you have become involved in a scam or money laundering activity, talk directly to your bank about this.

You may also want to report the issue to the police through the Action Fraud website or call 0300 123 2040. You could also contact International Student Support on, DSU Advice or DMU Security.

For more information about how to avoid being a money mule, click here.

Posted on Friday 15 November 2019

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