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Cash-strapped students targeted as money mules, warns NCA

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is warning students that letting someone use their bank account to move money is money laundering, following a spike in students being targeted and used as ‘money mules’.

Cash-strapped students targeted as money mules, warns NCA
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  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • December 11, 2019
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The NCA has issued a warning to students ahead of Christmas, urging them to be aware of activities that fall under money laundering and to avoid giving their bank account details to anyone unless they know and trust them.

Earlier this year, 95 bank accounts – containing more than £3 million – were frozen by UK law enforcement coordinated by the National Economic Crime Centre.

Access to the money was denied and investigations undertaken because it was suspected that some or all of the funds were linked to money laundering. To date approximately £1 million of this money has been forfeited following court hearings.

The majority of the accounts frozen belonged to international students studying in the UK. Further investigation found that the overseas students, complicit or not, were targeted and used as ‘money mules’ to launder funds through UK accounts.

The NECC is now targeting students through social media over the next week as they head back home for the Christmas break.

NECC Head of Operations Matt Bradford said: “Allowing someone to use your bank account for a cut may seem like an easy way to earn some money over Christmas and New Year but it has consequences.

“Banks have systems to identify this activity, they will report to the police or take their own action.

“Although these messages are targeted towards students, their parents and university staff – it is important to remember anyone can become involved in this. Acting as a money mule is money laundering, a crime, and can happen with or without the account holder’s knowledge.”

Alongside awareness messaging the NECC has been working with financial institutions to better identify this method of money laundering as it happens.

“No matter what age you are, we urge you not to give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them. Letting your bank account be used to transfer money given to you by someone else makes you a money mule and when you’re caught your bank account will be closed,” cautioned Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance.

“The banking industry works closely with law enforcement to identify, arrest and charge those criminal gangs responsible for recruiting money mules and to raise awareness amongst susceptible groups.”

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