A growing number of young people in the UK are being lured into illegal work as "money mules".

Anti-fraud prevention service Cifas said there was a 27 percent increase in the number of 14- to 24-year-olds being used as money mules during 2017.

A money mule is a person who is used by criminals to move illegal funds between accounts, whether in person or electronically, in order to launder the money and evade authorities.

Young people are often used to transfer money. The National Fraud Database warned earlier this year that fraudsters were using popular messaging app WhatsApp to lure in unsuspecting youngsters.

Advertisement

Cifas said cash-strapped students were a particular target for the scam as criminals often promised large rewards for small amounts of work.

More than 32,000 bank accounts were highlighted as being subject to money laundering by money mules last year, an 11per cent rise on 2016.

Dean Curtis, of financial crime firm LexisNexis Risk Solutions, said young people were engaging in illegal activity without considering the potential repercussions.

"To avoid banks' stringent identity fraud checks, criminals are increasingly turning to laundering their illicit funds through other people's bank accounts, and probably giving them great compensation for doing so," he said.

"This trend has already increased 11 per cent since 2016 and could easily continue to rise. More young people are being recruited in this manner, particularly among the student population, who are handing over their identities and banking credentials without understanding the implications."

Other data published by Cifas showed identity fraud reached an all-time high during 2017, with 174,523 cases recorded. It said 95 per cent of these cases involved the impersonation of an innocent victim.

Mike Haley, of Cifas, described the levels of fraud in the UK as "frighteningly high" and said criminals were using increasingly sophisticated techniques to find victims.

"As some targets become harder to crack, criminals turn to what they consider are softer targets. However, as fraudsters see their attempts become more difficult, the question will arise about where they will target next."

Advertisement

- Telegraph