29 November 2022 - 5 min Reading time
Today, Febelfin is launching a campaign that aims to make young people, including parents, aware of the dangers of online fraud and the phenomenon of mules. A money mule makes his/her bank account and/or bank card and codes available to criminals. Young people spend more time than ever on social media, where they are daily confronted with advertisements or messages that promise them to earn a lot of money quickly. Without thinking, this can completely turn their lives upside down in a matter of seconds. The aim of the campaign is not only to help young people, but also parents to make their children aware that making a lot of money quickly does not exist.
A large proportion of young people go too loose with online safety. The research shows that a quarter of young people (25%) between the ages of 16 and 30 have shared financial data in the past year that made them feel uncomfortable. A sharp increase of 8% compared to 2021 and also a big difference compared to the Belgians in general (11%). Also, 16% of the young people surveyed would without hesitation just pass on their bank codes if their 'bank' asks for it. Moreover, one in four (24%) young people in Belgium has never heard of phishing. With the positive side note that this number has decreased compared to 30% in 2021.
"Easy money? That does not exist. Does it seem too good to be true? Then it usually is. We especially want to emphasize that it is important to protect yourself, but also others, against online fraud."
Young people's lack of awareness of the importance of online safety makes them more susceptible to becoming a money mule. The research shows that as many as 16% of the young people surveyed would pass their bank card or bank details to someone they do not know in exchange for money. That percentage is 7% higher than last year. In addition, it appears that no less than 10% of the surveyed young people have already been approached to become a money mule. In 2021 this was still 6%. So this is no longer a far-from-my-bed show: the criminals recruit young people at the school gate, in the nightlife or the station area, but also online.
The problem is that very few young people know exactly what a money mule is. Almost 8 out of 10 have no idea. Barely 22% knew what a money mule is, and even then they have little awareness of the dangers associated with it.
It is also remarkable that 14% of the young people surveyed think that becoming a money mule is not a criminal offence. By lending a bank card and codes, money mules participate in money laundering, which is punishable by law. "The recruiters tell you what to do and what amounts others have already earned in the same way. It's all perfectly safe, so to speak, but making easy money is never without risk and usually downright dangerous, even if it doesn't seem like it at first sight" , says Stijn De Ridder of the Antwerp Police.
Arto is one of the young people who fell into the trap of cybercriminals. His mother testifies: “A few years ago my son was approached via social media (Snapchat) by someone who wanted to use his bank card in exchange for 9000 euros. He was blinded by that amount and accepted it with all its consequences. Once the money was in his account, everything was blocked and we lost control of his bank account and card. From then on the trouble started. The bank cards, packages and orders in Arto's name can no longer be tracked. He was threatened and even kidnapped twice. There are some phishing investigations against him because the scammers are using his name and details to scam other people. The cyber criminals are making our lives miserable, we have already lost a total of 50,000 euros.”
Parents are often underinformed about the exact dangers lurking behind the not-so-innocent social media outlets. With this campaign, Febelfin tries to highlight those dangers in order to avoid them in the future.