Money laundering scam targeted at students

Hannah McNeill

Fraudsters are offering students jobs that appear to give excessive amounts of money for very little work in “money mule scams.” These scams in fact involve students and people with low incomes in illegal money laundering. The charity Crimestoppers has started a nationwide campaign to make students and staff at universities across the United Kingdom aware of the signs of these scams and the legal problems that will face anyone involved in them.

Money launderers target students by placing adverts in local newspapers and by dropping leaflets through doors in areas with high volumes of students. Online methods are also used to gain interest, placing adverts on genuine recruitment websites as well as creating websites themselves.

Once students register interest, they are asked to transfer large amounts of money through personal bank accounts to offshore bank accounts, leaving themselves a cut for commission. This money may have come from various illegal activities including trafficking and drug dealing, or even fraud on another bank account. Banks have high levels of security against fraud and students can have their bank accounts frozen, as well being charged for criminal behaviour, for taking part in this activity.

A survey of 1014 students taken by ICM research on behalf of Financial Fraud action found that 15% of adults in the United Kingdom had been approached with an offer of working as a money mule. Of the students surveyed, 19% of those offered a job as a money mule took it.

Crimestoppers has launched a two-fold campaign against this scam. Firstly, they want to make students aware of the criminality of these scams and how to avoid being involved in them. Secondly, they want to give students an anonymous outlet to pass on names and information without getting themselves in trouble. Glasgow is one of the cities they are focusing on, and they have already had a day talking to students and staff at Glasgow Caledonian University.

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Students should always be wary of any money-making schemes that seem too good to be true or involve no actual work, such as the ‘money mule’ scam highlighted by Crimestoppers. Any student aware of suspicious activity on campus of this nature should contact Security or the police.”