Money mule scam: How to protect yourself

Credit Cards

Organised Crime Groups are scamming  thousands of young people into their money-laundering networks each year as they seek to hide behind legitimate bank accounts through which to ‘clean’ their illegal funds. These are known as ‘money mules’.

Around six in ten money mules are under the age of 30 and most are recruited between the ages of 17 and 24. Many criminals target their recruitment of money mules at universities or colleges – either online, in person or via friends and family.

3 things you need to know

1. If you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the UK or overseas government or claiming to be police from your country and asking for money then you or your family members should end the call immediately and contact the UK police on 999 – do not send any money.

2. UK or overseas governments or police should never contact you by phone asking you to do something like disclosing personal information or bank details or asking you to transfer money. This is likely to be a scam. In particular, they may:

  • Say that you should not tell anyone about the call
  • Say that you are under investigation for a crime in your home country or have a warrant issued for your arrest
  • Share fradulent arrest papers with you that appear genuine
  • Offer help and support so the authorities won’t pursue you
  • Tell you to go to the shop and buy a phone, tape, rope and make-up
  • Tell you to turn off your mobile phone
  • Tell you to go to a hotel and not return to your university or your home address, or contact your family or friends
  • Ask you to pretend to be tied up or apply make-up as if injured and take a photograph of yourself
  • Ask you to send photographs of yourself.

3. The caller could even be making it look like they are calling from a genuine number which you believe to be from the organisation they claim to be calling from but in fact this is part of the scam and they are actually calling from another number.

6 ways to protect yourself

  • Be suspicious of job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money. Stick to reputable job sites like Handshake – and remember that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Don’t sign up for an opportunity without undertaking some proper research. Take time to Google any prospective employer, do they have an online presence? Are the contact details legitimate? Is it based overseas?
  • Don’t engage with any online posts offering large sums of money.
  • Don’t let anyone else transfer money through your bank account
  • Don’t accept message requests from people you don’t know.
  • Don’t share bank and personal details with anyone that you don’t know or trust – even among friends or family. If someone asks to ‘borrow’ your bank account, say no.

Always remember that if you aren’t sure about the source of the money, it could have come from criminal activity, and you could unwittingly be laundering money and end up with a criminal conviction.

What to do if you’re concerned

If you or someone you know has been approached, stop all contact, don’t receive or move any money, and ask for advice from someone you trust. Criminals operate in silence – by talking about it, you are protecting others.

Report it by calling local Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline quoting ref: IFMM23. You do not have to give your name or contact details unless you want to.

Contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers anonymously online or by calling 0800 555 111. Please quote ref: IFMM23.

If you think someone you know is already involved, go to the NCA website for advice. If criminals have already got your personal information report it to Action Fraud National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre on 0300 123 2040.

International Advice and Guidance (IAG) have put together some detailed information on safety and security including important contact details and videos on keeping safe whilst in the UK. Please take the time to look over this information on our website here. If you need any additional support please contact International Advice and Guidance and don’t forget to visit our website for more general information on keeping safe whilst in the UK.

Find out more

Visit the National Crime Agency website or watch Scam Stories on the BBC iPlayer.

Report + Support
Use our online service to tell us about incidents you have seen or experienced that have made you feel uncomfortable. It can be used anonymously at any time.