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With the cost of living having an impact on personal finances, Northamptonshire Police has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of online schemes which promise quick and easy money.
Students or those on a low income are often targeted by organised crimes gangs who want to use their bank accounts to launder their “dirty money” – however officers from the Force’s Economic Crime Unit are urging people not to be fooled.
“What might seem like an easy way to make some extra cash could end with a criminal record and a prison sentence,” warned Northamptonshire Police Fraud Prevention Officer PC Neil MacKenzie.
“We are all feeling the squeeze on our personal finances with the rise in the cost of living, and online criminals are looking to profit on the current situation by promoting opportunities for people to make quick, easy money.
“If you see an advert online and think this would be a good way to earn some extra money before Christmas, we urge you to be extremely cautious of anything offering cash rewards for very little work.
“Before clicking on any online money-making opportunities, we would urge everyone to stop and ask themselves – is this too good to be true? If the answer is yes – then do not be tempted and ignore it. No legitimate business would ask you for your bank details up front or to transfer sums of money through your personal account.”
According to research, this is one of the few types of fraud to actively target young people -with those aged under 25 six times more likely to fall victim to criminals using social media platforms than the over 50s.
Money muling is often disguised as ‘make money quick’ schemes or ‘trading opportunities’ and involves sending money to someone and asking them to forward it onto another account, usually for a small fee.
It is also known as 'deets and squares' referring to the bank details and cards which young people are often asked to hand over in exchange for a cut of the cash laundered through their accounts.
Once the money has been laundered, it is used in serious crimes including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug smuggling and terrorist activity however, anyone caught using their bank accounts for such crimes could face up to 14 years in prison.
In addition to a criminal record, their bank accounts will be closed, and they will be prevented from having an account for six years. This would make it extremely difficult to access student loans, mortgages, take out a phone contract and affect future job prospects.
As part of the campaign, the Force’s Economic Crime Unit, supported by the Neighbourhood Policing Team, will be working with schools, colleges, and university to raise awareness of this type of fraud.
PC MacKenzie added: “People might see letting someone else use their bank account as easy money but these transactions help fund organised crime and allowing your account details to be used for fraud means you could face a prison sentence.”
What to look out for:
• Posts on social media offering opportunities to make money
• Social media hashtags on Instagram and Snapchat such as #realmoneytransfers, #activebankaccount, #moneyflips, #PayPalflips and #easymoney should all be warnings of a money laundering scam
• Adverts from unknown companies with little to no web presence, or adverts with bad spelling and grammar can be an indicator that they are not legitimate
How to protect yourself:
• Don’t accept any job offers that ask you to transfer money through your personal bank account
• Be especially wary of job offers from people or companies overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate
• Never give your financial details to someone you don’t know or trust
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, it’s important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.
You should contact Action Fraud online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or calling them on 0300 123 20 40. Or if you have any information about a fraud or scam and wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.