Money mules – what they are and how to not be a victim

11 November 2019

Have you been presented with a job offer that sounds too good to be true? Be aware, as students are being targeted to act as ‘money mules’ involved in money laundering.

money and ATM machine

If you’ve ever seen a job advert on Snapchat, WhatsApp or Instagram that says you could ‘earn £250 per week from the comfort of your own home, no experience necessary’ you might have thought it sounded too good to be true… and you’d be right!

In the last year, thousands of young people have had their bank accounts closed, and even been sentenced for money laundering because they knowingly or unknowingly acted as ‘money mules’ for criminal gangs.

What is a ‘money mule’?

In order to disguise the money that they have made from the profits of crime, criminals will try to pass the money through several bank accounts.

They may approach you in person or via a legitimate-seeming job advert that asks you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it on to another account, keeping some cash for yourself.

However, if you let this happen, you’re a money mule and involved in money laundering, which is a crime.

Once you have handed over your bank details, you are in the hands of criminals and the consequences could be very serious.

The consequences

It can be very hard to stop being a money mule once you’ve started because the criminals involved will issue threats so that they can keep using your account.

Even if you didn’t realise what you were doing was illegal, allowing your bank account to be used in this way has serious consequences if you are caught:

• Your bank account will be closed

• You will find it hard to access further student loans

• It will be difficult to get a mobile phone contract

• You will have problems applying for credit

• You could go to prison for up to 14 years

Don't be fooled

To avoid becoming a money mule you should be very wary about who you give you bank details to and don’t believe in offers that suggest you can earn money without working for it.

Some top tips:

• Don’t give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them

• Be cautious of unsolicited offers of easy money - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

• Research any company that makes you a job offer and make sure their contact details are genuine

• Be wary of job offers from overseas. It will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate

• Be wary of job ads that are written in poor English, with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes

Find out more about money mules by visiting the Money Mules website.

If you do find yourself in trouble and want to speak to somebody for advice, please contact Action Fraud or the UCL Student Funding Advisor via askUCL


Katy Foster, UCL Student Funding Adviser