The rise in teenage money mules has spiked concern for both parents and bank officials. Money mules are people who allow their bank accounts to be used to divert funds for criminal activity, and the number of young people involved is staggering. In just two years, the number of reported cases of 14 to 18-year-olds serving as a money mule has grown by 73%.
How Money Mules Work
Criminals approach people, like young teens, who wouldn’t look as suspicious with a large amount of money in their bank accounts. And the reason why they do it is simple: The money mule is promised a small cut of the money they are asked to hold.
How are they contacted?
It’s no secret that a majority of teenagers flock to social media — and criminals are taking advantage of that. Many teenagers report that they are recruited through various platforms. Recruiting also takes place through sports clubs and schools.
“The increasing use of social media means that young people have never been more vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud,” stated Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas.
Criminals use hashtags like #RealMoneyTransfers and #legitmoneyflips to track recruiting.
And when money mules do try to quit, criminals threaten them with violence.
Teens are particularly at risk because they are often unaware of the true nature of the activity they are doing. The money may look attractive, but they could be facing a 14-year prison sentence if caught. Their future financial opportunities become limited — their bank accounts will be shut down and future accounts will be hard to get.
How Can You Identify a Teenage Money Mule?
Becoming a money mule and partaking in criminal activity could cause a drastic change in your teen. If your teen has become more secretive, withdrawn, or noticeably stressed, you should definitely consider it a red flag. Other signs to look for include the sudden appearance of extra cash, an updated wardrobe, or brand new tech. (If you didn’t give them the money, and their part-time job doesn’t leave them rolling in cash, there has to be another logical explanation.)
Educate your children about the dangers of money laundering. It’s not just a way to make fast cash — it’s becoming involved in a criminal network that could directly impact their future. Also remind teens not to give out their bank account information and to take caution when faced with offers of easy money.