Criminals Target Kids For ‘Money Mule’ Recruitment In An Outrageous New Trend

The UK’s anti-fraud agency, Cifas, and UK Finance, a banking trade organization, have raised the alarm over students becoming increasingly targeted by online scammers to launder money.

According to a Daily Mail article published recently, individuals are luring children into online scam operations at startling numbers. This is prompting schools to hold assemblies to create awareness and warn pupils from 9 to 14 years old about the impending dangers of such criminal activities.

Raising Awareness in Schools

In July, the two agencies, Cifas and the UK Finance, advised schools to hold assemblies to educate pupils and secondary level students on being exploited as a “money mule.”

As a result, 307 schools signed up for classes to educate children and their teachers about the ever-increasing risks of being targeted by scammers through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Children Vulnerable To Online Scams

Due to their poor situational analysis and low-risk assessment capability, children are increasingly becoming prime targets for scammers looking to recruit money mules to help them launder the proceeds of online scams.

After all, young people would not ask the scammers hard questions regarding their business and wouldn’t mind having someone use their accounts to transfer money if they get to keep some for themselves.

Criminals often request unsuspecting children to allow them to send money to their bank accounts so they can withdraw it and send it to another person or transfer the money to another account.

In return, they get to keep a small amount of the money. And that’s how innocent children find themselves being accomplices in money laundering syndicates and other financial crimes.

What Seemed Like a Good Deed Comes With Devastating Consequences

While it’s easy for unwitty children to be enticed into money laundering by great rewards promised by scammers, their involvement in such crimes can have a devastating effect on their future by ruining their chances of securing a university entry, getting a job, and in the worst scenario, hand them a 14-year jail term.

Ria Nelson, St Frideswide Primary School in Oxford, told Daily Mail that there’s a real risk of children being recruited and exploited as money mules, adding that teachers have very little information about financial fraud.

Nelson said that children are “vulnerable” and lack a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of such criminal activities.

“These criminals are truly selfish. They are trying to take advantage of children and trick them into becoming money mules. The consequences of that can be detrimental to the child’s future, impacting their life at home and future education and professional work, and that’s truly awful.”

Social Media: ‘A Rich Hunting Ground For Criminals’

The UK Minister of State for Security, Tom Tugendhat, told Money Mail on September 27 that social media platforms have made targeting children for money mule recruitment easier than before. Additionally, giant tech companies must do what it takes to protect users of their platforms by identifying and blocking money mule recruitment.

‘Social media makes advertising cheap and easy, turning apps such as Instagram and Snapchat into a rich hunting ground for criminals to identify and recruit money mules,” said Tugendhat.

Tugendhat supports Daily Mail’s Social Media Scammers campaign, which aims to teach about the dangers of being a money mule before they are targeted by online scammers looking to recruit teenagers and university students to help them in their criminal endeavors.

READ NEXT: Race-Based Scholarships Labeled “Discriminatory” in Lawsuit Against Western Kentucky University

Online criminals use money mules to launder the proceeds of their activities, such as drug dealing, fraud, scams, or people trafficking through unsuspected networks, and pass it through legitimate bank accounts to avoid detection.  

With teenagers becoming more targeted by scammers, the disturbing trend comes after a 2017 Cifas report warned of a significant increase in students misusing their bank accounts. 

According to the report, the number of 18-24-year-old youth misusing their bank accounts reached a record-breaking 75%. This underscores the need to educate pupils and students about the dire risks associated with such criminal activities.

The promise of ‘Easy Cash’ and ‘Cash-flipping’ Opportunities

While primary and high school children are vulnerable to online scams, university students are prime targets due to their clean credit records and desire for easy ways to make extra cash.

As such, criminals trap them with promises of easy cash and other lucrative deals when recruiting them, only to work as mules.

“Typically, the mule will be instructed to move funds from the bank account to foreign exchange platforms [who ask few questions], from which the recruiters collect the cash,” Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, told Daily Mail.

According to the bank, Instagram is the most common platform for recruiting mules, with scammers reaching out to their potential targets on Instagram before moving the conversation to commonly used chat platforms such as WhatsApp for convenience.


This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments