Fraudsters seek out social environment of adolescents

26 March 2018

Cybercriminals now recruit through social media and in nightlife areas

Fraudsters are constantly on the hunt for money mules. Money mules act as intermediaries to move money that has been stolen by fraudsters, often to other countries. Fraudsters are increasingly approaching adolescents for this purpose. They contact them through channels that are popular among young people, such as Instagram, with promises of making quick and easy money. The ones who fall into this trap often do not realise they are committing a criminal offence and are putting their safety, as well as the safety of the people around them, on the line.

The fraudsters recruit their young victims within their own environment. Social media, such as Instagram, WhatsApp or Snapchat, are popular tools, but young people are also actively recruited through the group chats of their classroom or school. What’s more, they are not only approached online, but also, for example, in nightlife.

The fraudsters promise young people that they can make money quickly by lending them their bank card. The principle seems straightforward: the fraudster carries out a number of - allegedly legal - transactions with the youngster’s bank card. In return, the youngster receives a fee. Once the transactions are completed, the youngsters are told they will get their card back.

After the first contact, the fraudsters ask the young people to hand over their PIN code and bank card, for which they often meet in easily accessible public places, such as a station.

However, these are not legal transactions at all. The bank card is used to transfer stolen money. Moreover, as soon as the young person hands over his or her bank card to the fraudsters, more pressure is often exerted: the fraudsters ask for additional bank cards. If the young person does not respond, fraudsters are quick to use threats, such as physical violence.

When young people are contacted to earn money as a money mule, they are in direct contact with criminals. If they fall into their trap, they also commit a criminal offence themselves and can be criminally prosecuted. If the victims are minors, their parents may be held liable.

How to prevent?

  • Discuss the subject with young people so that they learn to recognize such practices.
  • Warn young people aware to never pass on their bank card, account or bank codes to third parties.
  • If you notice social media accounts that promise quick and easy money, please report these accounts to the Belgian hotline for misleading practices, fraud or swindle: https://pointdecontact.belgique.be/meldpunt/en/welcome.

What if a young person has fallen into the trap?

  • Immediately call Card Stop (070 344 344) to block the young person’s bank card.
  • Contact your bank.
  • File a complaint with the police.
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