Kids are being recruited via social media to become 'Money Mules' in order for them to transfer cash between bank accounts on behalf of criminals, it has emerged.
Youngsters and parents are being encouraged to stay vigilant as kids are being recruited over social media and told they will get paid if they use their bank accounts to transfer funds.
Birmingham is said to have the highest number of cases of any council area in the country, and West Midlands Police saw nearly 3,000 cases of fraudulent conduct - indicating 'money mule behaviour' - last year between January and September, according to stats from UK fraud prevention service Cifas.
The number of cases has concerned West Midlands police chiefs so much they are launching an awareness campaign across TikTok, Instagram and YouTube warning youngsters of the risk.
Knowingly transferring money on behalf of criminals is a crime called money laundering, which can be punished with up to 14 years in prison. And although most cases of this criminal activity have been recorded in Birmingham, it’s thought to be a nationwide concern.
Simon Foster, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, has teamed up with HSBC UK to launch the campaign on social media. He said...
"It is disgraceful and shameful that criminals are taking advantage of young people, just so they can try and evade the law.
"The offenders know that if they move their own stolen cash around then sooner or later they will be caught. That’s why they often criminally exploit young people and rope them in to do their criminal work for them.
"So, as well as the police tracking down criminals, arresting them and bringing them to justice, I’ve decided to get the message out to parents and children, in order to prevent young people becoming victims of criminal exploitation in the first place. We need young people and parents to be aware and report any suspicious activity to the police immediately."
Birmingham was followed by Newham, in London, as having the highest number of cases nationwide. Being used as a Money Mule could affect a person’s credit rating, career prospects and ability to get a bank account.
Young people who are targeted are being urged to report incidents to their parents, the police or their teachers. Parents are also being asked to look out for any unusual behaviour or other warning signs.
Natasha Moore, the local director for HSBC UK, added:
"Scammers target individuals, gaining their consent to allow money to be transferred through their bank account in exchange for payment. It might seem like a harmless way to increase your income, or even win favour with a new friend, but the money being transferred could well be stolen and ultimately used to fund organised crime, including terrorism.
"We have recently relaunched our free Fraud and Cyber Awareness mobile app to provide additional protection to customers. The app is available to download by everyone, whether they are customers or not, or use Android or iOS platforms, and comes as HSBC UK reveals the most common ways fraudsters are scamming people out of thousands of pounds and how you can spot their tricks.
"People can also visit our Fraud and Security Centre for advice and information."
Although this offence isn’t strictly a cyber-crime, the criminals' recruitment drive appears most commonly via social media, specifically targeting children.
With Safer Internet Day happening on February 7, we'll be highlighting online risks, particularly those that target or affect children.
If you’re a parent, guardian, teacher or someone who works or looks after children, and you think a child is involved in ‘money mule’ activity, report it immediately to your local police force via the non-emergency 101 number.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).