As you pack the car at the start of your child’s student life, what are you most worried about? Let them make friends? That they adapt to your adult life?
These are the concerns that often concern us as parents. It is not that there is a risk that they will be drawn into committing serious crimes.
Today’s students face a new danger that did not exist when I left home: the risk of becoming money mules. The Mail’s campaign to fight this evolving crime really matters.
Easy money and “get rich quick” ads on platforms like Snapchat and Facebook have become a lure for young people, putting their bank accounts at risk of being used by fraudsters to launder the proceeds of their crimes.
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat leaves Downing Street on September 12.
Scammers create fake “investment opportunities” to trick young people into using their bank accounts to launder cash. In reality, these are often related to serious crimes: drug dealers, human traffickers and even terrorists.
Although 70 per cent of fraud in the UK has an overseas element, thousands of UK bank accounts are used to launder the proceeds of these crimes.
The National Crime Agency (the British FBI) estimates that more than £10 billion is laundered through money mule networks in the UK each year.
Social media makes advertising cheap and easy, turning apps like Instagram and Snapchat into a rich hunting ground for criminals to identify and recruit mules.
Some of these mules know what they are doing but think that the criminal link is minor and turn a blind eye.
Others are deceived or coerced, never knowing the true origin of the funds, and become victims themselves.
The days when criminals posed as African princes are long gone. Scammers have upped their game, crafting increasingly credible stories to gain access to vulnerable people’s information.
Sometimes these scams can take a much more personal form. ‘Tinder scammers’ use dating profiles to manipulate people into doing their bidding.
They pretend to be smart entrepreneurs, posting wads of cash on Snapchat and offering to share the secret of their success in exchange for moving some of their money.
These “get rich quick” ads are a front for more sinister activities.
Criminals need to hide their money or move it without the police noticing. Getting other people to do your dirty work is quick, easy, and carries less risk… for them.
I welcome the work the Mail is doing to highlight the scale of scams on social media. With nine out of 10 internet users now seeing suspected online scams, it’s high time for social media giants to step up to better protect their users.
Our schools and universities can be easy targets. Scammers have a knack for identifying vulnerabilities and often seek to take advantage of students or those without a stable income.
Some of these students will provide access to their accounts, not knowing that they are breaking the law and that money moving through their accounts could end up in the hands of human traffickers and terrorists.
Social media makes advertising cheap and easy, turning apps like Instagram and Snapchat into rich hunting grounds for criminals (File Image)
If you are approached with an unsolicited offer to make easy money by moving money or sharing your bank account details, don’t accept it.
Break contact and seek advice from someone you trust. You can report it directly to the police or submit a report 100 percent anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Even if a person does not know that the money passed through their account was acquired illegally, they can still be held liable. And he can be sure that the criminals who lured them to the Internet won’t care about the consequences.
I have been told of cases where people have had their bank accounts closed, credit scores destroyed, access to student finance blocked, and in some cases even faced prison sentences.
They pay the price while criminal gangs profit and, all too often, get away with it.
That is unacceptable. In our Anti-Fraud Strategy, published earlier this year to review the way we tackle these crimes, we specifically committed to tackling money trafficking and driving efforts to pursue those responsible, dismantle the systems behind which they hide criminals and protect victims.
I am leading a coordinated response, working with law enforcement, the financial sector and organizations that work with children to raise awareness of the risks among young people and cripple the ability of scammers to profit from them.
This is not something you can do alone. Tech companies must also do more to identify and block recruiting mules in the first place.
That is why we will publish an Online Fraud Charter that outlines a set of concrete actions, agreed with the technology sector, to eradicate fraud and money laundering on their platforms.
By strengthening detection and blocking processes and improving reporting mechanisms, we will be one step closer to stopping scammers and mule recruiters from accessing these sites.
Combined with our new powers under the Online Safety Bill, we will ensure that the technology sector takes responsibility for the safety of its users.
Fraud is a heinous crime. It destroys trust and consumes savings. It can also undermine confidence and harm future prospects.
That’s why we pursue scammers and protect victims. The young people who begin their life at university this week are there to build their future. We must not allow scammers to steal it before it has even started.
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