Youngsters more willing to lend a bank account and bank card in exchange for money

4 December 2019 - 7 min Reading time

Testimonial of a parent: “Please talk about this with your children.”

More youngsters (1 out of 10) would lend his or her bank account and/or bank card in exchange for money. That is one of the staggering conclusions from the study of money mules that Febelfin commissioned from the Indiville research agency.


Anyone who accepts such an “exchange proposal” becomes a money mule. Criminals need money mules and their bank account to transfer stolen money or to collect it in cash. In other words, the money donkey does the dirty work of the criminals, but is left with a lot of misery. He is criminal and can be prosecuted.

Moreover, the promised compensation is often a lie. Instead: physical threats and a looted account. To warn young people and their parents, Febelfin is launching a campaign about money mules for the second year in a row. This time together with a whole series of well-known influencers.


What are money mules?


Money mules (or money mules) are people who illegally transfer money through their account. They are often people who are struggling financially and/or want to get money in an easy way.

The study by the Indiville research agency shows that young people are certainly susceptible to this. While 4% of the total population would lend out his or her bank account and/or bank card in exchange for a fee, this percentage rises to no less than 10% among young people (between 16 and 24 years).

Boys also seem more susceptible to the sweet talk of criminals than girls. 8% of the girls seem to like the idea of ​​earning money by “only” lending their bank account and/or bank card. For boys we quickly speak of 14%.

Uitgevoerd in november 2019 op een representatief staal van de Belgische bevolking (n = 1782, leeftijdscategorie 16 - 79 jaar).

How does it work?


Money mule fraud follows a recognizable pattern. The potential money mule is approached online or in real life by a recruiter asking them to lend their bank account and/or bank card and PIN in exchange for a fee. Online social media such as Instagram and WhatsApp are popular, offline, for example, it happens in entertainment districts, at the station and near schools.

The recruiter tells the money mule what to do and what nice amounts others have already earned in this way. The act is described as completely safe or as a favor to a friend. In reality, the recruiter needs the money mule's bank account and/or bank card to transfer illegal money or to withdraw the same money in cash. Money that is usually stolen via phishing.

By using the money mule's account and/or card, the criminals erase any trace of themselves.

Hoewel de modus operandi via bankkaart het meest gebruikt wordt, kunnen criminelen ook vragen om geld door te sluizen via een overschrijving, Western Union, …


What are the consequences?


A money mule is usually unaware that he is participating in criminal activity. But even if it seems that he does not commit any criminal offenses himself, he is indeed responsible for what happens on his account and can be held liable for this.

If the mule is a minor, the parents can be held liable. In practice, this means that the money mule (and its parents) will have to repay the victim. He also risks hefty legal and tax fines. His bank can refuse to grant him another bank account, bank card and/or loan.

In addition to the criminal and financial consequences, there is also a high risk of physical violence. The recruiters are not wimps who want the best for their money mules. In practice, the nice compensation often means little or nothing. On the contrary: the money mule is often left with a plundered account.


How widespread is this phenomenon?


The problem of money mules is now widespread. The Indiville study shows that 7% of the total population has already come into contact with this. 3% were themselves approached by recruiters, while another 4% know people who were approached.

If we look at young people, these figures go up considerably. 5% were approached themselves and another 9% know people who were asked to play money mule. The criminals seem to be well aware that boys are more susceptible to their message because this target group is most addressed. 9% of the boys say they have already been approached. Another 11% know people. For girls this drops to less than 1% and 8%.

The problem is that 23% of all people who were approached actually responded to this question. In other words, they have lent their bank account and/or bank card to criminals.

The fact that young people do not understand the dangers of this may be due, among other things, to the fact that their parents or grandparents do not talk to them about safe handling of money and digital possibilities. This is a frequent topic of conversation at the breakfast table for only 1 in 4 young people. 1 in 5 never talk about this.

New campaign focuses on young people


Febelfin is launching a campaign on Instagram together with the creative agency Hurae to raise awareness of money donkeys and to point out the dangers to young people. Not only a popular channel among young people, but also one of the criminals' favorite recruitment methods. The federation of the financial sector thus builds on an earlier successful campaign with the rappers of Kurk Droog.

Finally, Europol, the international police organization, also annually takes up the fight against money mule recruiters. Their annual awareness campaign EMMA 5 (European Money Mule Action) will be launched on 4 December.