Don’t be fooled by offers of quick cash - that’s the message we and Lancaster University are sharing with students ahead of the new term.
Students need sufficient funds for their fees, accommodation, food, travel, books and other living expenses.
Unfortunately, this could lead them to falling victim to fraudsters who choose to target students and trick them into illegal activity with offers of quick cash.
Some of these scams could lead to students unwittingly committing fraud by being used as money mules.
A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money between bank accounts often from different countries.
Often students are innocently involved in this practice and are targeted by criminal gangs. These gangs target students and befriend them into laundering money by using job adverts or social media posts that promise large amounts of money for very little work and allowing an ‘employer’ or someone they do not know to use their bank account to transfer money.
Helen Grimshaw, our Fraud Safeguarding Officer said: “We know that students at Lancashire based Universities have been targeted usually via social media or word of mouth with regards to ‘easy money’ schemes. We have also noticed prescriptive targeting of students allowing their bank accounts to be used to pass fraudulent funds through for a small reward. This means that unwittingly, students are leaving themselves open to criminals for future financial exploitation and may even be committing a money laundering offence which could have a severe impact on their studies.”
“Joining forces with Lancaster University is one of the proactive ways we’re working to protect students from this type of fraud. By raising awareness of this issue, we’re aiming to empower students to make informed choices should they or one of their friends be targeted by fraudsters with offers of ‘free’ cash.
“My message to students is - don’t be fooled by offers of free cash. Even if you’re unaware that the money you are transferring was illegally obtained, you could still be prosecuted for money laundering.”
Oliver Robinson, President of Lancaster University Students’ Union, said: “Money laundering and fraud can ruin lives, and my message to students is simple: it’s just not worth it. You become complicit in a complex network of organised crime, and the reason the money seems good is because the risk is so high. You are one of the most vulnerable, and least protected by definition. You shouldn’t want to cause such damage to yourself so early in your life, as it could affect your degree, your ability to get student loans, and to get loans later in life.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden added: "It's great to see this initiative to make young people aware of criminal gangs and the tactics they use to recruit students for money laundering. Education is a fantastic tool to ensure that students understand the risks and can't be taken advantage of.
"I will continue to work closely with the Constabulary to target organised crime and to disrupt criminal gangs in their activities so that they haven't got the opportunity to target young people here in Lancashire."
This work with us is part of the proactive ways Lancaster University empower students nationwide to recognise the signs financial criminals may be grooming them into inadvertently committing fraud.
The National Crime Agency and We Fight Fraud has created an awareness video, called Crooks on Campus, which is due to be launched today (Friday 8th October) at an official screening in the Fylde Bar. You can watch the trailer and find out more about the campaign at www.crooksoncampus.co.uk
For more information about the Don’t Be Fooled campaign and for tips and advice about to protect yourself from this type of fraud, visit Money Mules – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.