Ahead of the start of a new term, Barclays has issued warnings over the rise of cases involving students being used as money-mules. 

According to data, as revealed by the banking giant, cases of student money mules increased by 23% last October.

Given the financial vulnerability associated with student life and the enhanced volatility of the current economic climate, the risk of financial manipulation remains elevated. 

Laying out what a money mule is, the bank stated: “A money mule is someone that lets criminals use their bank account to move money, a type of money laundering. A lot of the time, money mules are unwitting, and often don’t know what’s really happening. They are either manipulated into believing a cover story, or lured by an offer of payment.”

The warning also emphasised that younger people are at a specific risk of fraud and being targeted by those looking to exploit consumers for fraud. 

Barclays issued the warning to students and to guardians of students, as the bank stated that students are less likely to share that they have been targeted with their guardians. 

As well as this, Barclays underlined that they are less aware of the impact of being targeted and how it can stain their record for the rest of their life. 

Ross Martin, Head of Digital Safety at Barclays, said: “Criminals will often set up fake profiles on social media, and make posts advertising quick cash or easy investments.

“Always be wary of people reaching out to you online with too-good-to-be-true opportunities, get-rich-quick schemes, and requests to pass money through your bank account.

“Remember, being a money mule can not only make it difficult to get credit down the line – like a student loan, phone contract, or mortgage – but you could also end up with a criminal record.”

Barclays shares the different ways that criminals are targeting young people:

  1. Social media – Criminals advertise ways to earn quick and easy money, using pictures of bank accounts with high balances to draw people in. The bank has reminded people to be aware of the risks of ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Job ads – Beware of job adverts that seem too good to be true. Criminals may pretend to be a legitimate company and then ask you to process payments for them through your personal bank account. Students have been encouraged to do research on a company before applying for a job.
  2. Refunds – Criminals may call pretending to be from a utility company saying you’re due a refund, but they will pay you more than expected. They then ask victims to send the overpayment back, but to a different account.
  3. Online dating – Someone may create a fake, online profile on a dating app or on social media to form a relationship with you. They may ask for help moving money, using relationships for manipulation. 
  4. Investments – Students have been cautioned that investment opportunities that request money transfers as part of a deal could be a  lie to trick participants into being money mules. 
  5. Loans – Adverts offering a cheap loan are another way for criminals to trick people into becoming money mules, especially if they promise to give a loan regardless of financial history. Participants are often told they can boost credit scores before applying for a loan if they receive money and move it on. Another tactic is for criminals to overpay and say it was an accident before asking for funds to be sent to a different account. it on. Or they may overpay you and say it was an accident, and ask you to send the additional amount back to a different account.