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‘Earn thousands working from home. No experience needed.’ Sound familiar? Because this is exactly the type of advert used to recruit students as money mules.

Now freshers’ week is over and the cost of bills, rent, fees and course materials start to add up, promises of fast, easy cash can seem tempting. But think carefully before going any further, because you could get tricked into letting criminals use your bank account.

Now that thousands of students are settling in to university life, we’d like to share our tips to keep safe from money mule scams.

What is a money mule?

Criminals use money mules to transfer stolen money from one account to another. The mule receives a large sum of money in their bank account, then they transfer it to another account and take a cut for themselves.

Many potential mules hand over their bank details thinking they’ve been offered a genuine job. What they don’t always realise is that they’re committing a crime.

That’s right, moving stolen money through your bank account is money laundering. And even if you didn’t know the money was stolen, your bank account could be closed, you’ll struggle to access other financial products like phone contracts, and you could face up to 14 years in jail.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

You need extra cash and a job which fits around your studies. A message pops up offering you potential to ‘earn fast cash’. Tempted?

Easy money rarely comes without a catch, so be suspicious if someone approaches you with an offer of little work for high pay. Criminals often use social media to approach students and young people to recruit them as money mules, sometimes pretending to be legitimate employers.

No matter how stretched your student loan is, being a money mule isn’t worth the risk, so treat any offer of easy money with suspicion.

Research potential employers

Before you hand over any personal details, make sure you know who you’re dealing with. Thoroughly research any potential employers, and don’t accept a job offer if you spot anything unusual.

Some of the warning signs to look out for include:

• Employers based overseas

• Work which takes place entirely online

• Adverts and communications with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes

• Fake contact details – if an email or message claims to be from a genuine company, check those contact details against that company’s website to make sure they match.

Check sources such as the company’s website, social media, reviews, and news articles to build up a picture of who the company is and what they’re like. And if you spot any of the above warning signs, get out before it’s too late.

Only give your bank details to people you trust

A friend paying you back for cinema tickets? You’re probably okay to give them your bank details. A stranger you’ve been chatting to online? Probably not.

No matter how tempting the easy cash might be, don’t hand over any financial information unless you’ve done your research and you’re certain this ‘employer’ is legitimate.

No genuine employer will ask you to transfer their money using your bank account, so don’t accept any job offer which asks you to do this. If you don’t know and trust the person or company, don’t take the risk.

Don’t be fooled

With the new academic year in full swing, don’t be fooled by promises of fast cash to get through the term. Acting as a money mule not only has consequences for you, but it also helps to fund crimes such as people trafficking and terrorism.

For more information about the consequences of being a money mule and the warning signs to look out for, visit www.moneymules.co.uk.

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