Money mules: young Belgians particularly targeted by recruiters

Stay up to date with the latest measures from the financial sector

6 min Reading time

A recent survey conducted by Febelfin in collaboration with the investigation firm IndiVille highlights a concerning trend among young Belgians, underscoring the increasing vulnerability to becoming money mules. The 2023 study results reveal that 17% of individuals aged 16-30, or 1 in 6, would be willing to provide their bank card with the PIN code to an unknown person in exchange for money, confirming an increase compared to the previous year (16%). Aware of the dangers of this phenomenon, Febelfin is committed to raising awareness by offering a dedicated roadshow in schools and providing free educational materials.

Survey by Febelfin in collaboration with the research bureau Indiville, conducted among 2,117 Belgians aged 16 to 79, including 761 between 16 and 30 years old


What is a money mule?


A money mule is a person who, knowingly or unknowingly, allows the use of their bank account and/or bank card and PIN by criminals for money laundering purposes. Criminals promise mules that they can quickly earn money in exchange for their bank card and PIN. They need intermediary bank accounts to deposit money obtained illegally through online scams, quickly transfer the money, or withdraw it in cash immediately. With money mules, criminal organisations can carry out significant fraud while reducing their exposure to risks. The mule does the dirty work and is then left on their own, facing all the troubles that come with it.


What troubles are we talking about?


Becoming a money mule is far from innocent. A money mule collaborates (sometimes involuntarily) in money laundering and fraud, which are punishable practices. The consequences are significant: the mule can be held accountable and prosecuted, facing substantial legal fines. Additionally, the bank may refuse to grant money mules a bank account, a bank card, and/or a loan. Furthermore, the mule may risk having their account emptied by the fraudster.


Current situation 

  • Common practice: 5% of the Belgian population would give their bank card with the PIN code to an unknown person. The 16-30 age group is more vulnerable; 17% of young people, or 1 in 6, would do so.
  • Awareness of the phenomenon: While 64% of Belgians have heard of financial mules, only 22% of young people are aware of this phenomenon.
  • Punishability: While 4% of Belgians consider becoming a mule not punishable, among young people, this percentage rises to 10%, and 15% are unsure of the legal implications.
  • Approaches to become a mule: Although the percentage of people claiming to have been approached to become a mule decreases (from 5% to 3% compared to 2022), 5% of respondents know individuals who have been approached, and among young people, this proportion is higher: 7% have been personally approached, and 13% know someone who has been solicited.

Friend or ennemy?


It is essential to recognize that the danger of financial mules can hide even among your closest friends. Sometimes, the request for a bank card and access codes may seem harmless, coming from a trusted person. But let's be clear: a bank card and bank account are personal, and you must keep them strictly to yourself. We must remind young people that trust can sometimes be abused, especially when it comes to money. By raising awareness among young people, we aim to protect them from potentially dangerous situations and encourage them to safeguard their financial identity in all circumstances.

"Unscrupulous recruiters use social networks to find their targets, but not only that. They also exploit physical spaces, such as university campuses, bars, and other socializing places. Febelfin encourages young people to be cautious, both online and offline, and to be aware that these recruiters can present themselves in different ways. The threat can manifest itself both behind a screen and during face-to-face interactions," says Karel Baert, CEO of Febelfin.


Roadshow in schools and free awareness material



Aware of the increased vulnerability of young people, Febelfin has proactively responded by launching a special roadshow for schools. This initiative aims to personally raise awareness among young people about the risks they face in becoming financial mules. Through an interactive seminar, Febelfin informs and alerts the public about the ins and outs of online fraud and the role that mules play. Febelfin has already been invited by UCLouvain FUCaM Mons and EPHEC.


Not just theory

The roadshow is not limited to theoretical presentations; it also offers an engaging practical experience called the 'Hacker Hotline.' This mobile escape room, focused on the theme of phishing, provides an immersive complementary activity to the conference. This interactive approach aims to reinforce young people's understanding and equip them with concrete knowledge to protect themselves online. For more information, you can visit our web page.


On our website, you will find all information about money mules.