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Money mules are people who illegally channel money through their accounts. They are often people who are in financial difficulty and/or want to get money the easy way.
Young people in particular form the ideal target group, according to a study by Febelfin and the research bureau Indiville. While 4% of the total population would lend their bank account and/or bank card in exchange for a payment, this percentage rises to 10% among young people (between 16 and 24 years of age).
This means that no less than 1 young person in 10 would lend his/her bank account and/or bank card in exchange for money.
Although it seems very innocent, it can get you into a lot of trouble. Physical threats, the police at your door, blocking or closing your account, a criminal record and, as the icing on the cake, a plundered account with the risk of compensation to the victims.
Fraud with money mules follows a recognisable pattern. You are approached online or in real life by a recruiter and asked to lend you your bank account and/or bank card and pin code in exchange for a payment.
Online, fraudsters recruit via social media such as Instagram and WhatsApp; offline, they do it in entertainment districts, at railway stations and in the vicinity of schools.
The recruiter tells you what to do and how much money others have earned in this way. The act is said to be "perfectly safe" or "a favour".
Anyone who accepts such an 'exchange proposal' becomes a money mule. Criminals need money mules as well as their bank accounts in order to channel illegal money or to withdraw it in cash. Money that is usually stolen via phishing.
By using the account and/or card of a money mule, the criminals erase any trace of themselves. In other words, the money mule does the criminals' dirty work but is left behind with a lot of misery.
In practice, the nice compensation is often little to nothing. On the contrary: as a money mule you are left with a plundered account.
Playing money mule is often not a one-off. Those who refuse may face physical threats and violence. The recruiters are no softies who have your best interests at heart.
Moreover, playing money mule is punishable. You will also be prosecuted by the court with a possible fine/ community service. In case of a minor, the parents can be held liable. In practice, this means that the money mule (and his parents) will have to pay back all the money that has been channelled through his account to the victim.
Your bank may also refuse to give you a bank account, bank card and/or loan.
Do not respond to the question if someone offers you quick money.
Do you know young people who are approached by criminals to become involved in money mule activities, or even young people who are already money mules? Would you like to be able to offer help, raise awareness, and counteract this phenomenon? Febelfin has created two useful brochures for both young people and guides with practical information and tips.