Be on the alert for ’money mule’ scams

Typing on smartphone
Typing on smartphone
Students are increasingly being targeted by criminal groups to act as ’money mules’ to cover up illegal activity. Find out more and what to do if you’ve been approached with a suspicious job offer, or if a stranger asks for access to your bank account.

What is a money mule? 

Organised crime groups are always looking for ways to hide their illegal funds by ’money laundering’ - concealing the proceeds from criminal activity behind layers of legitimate bank accounts. One way of doing this is to use ’money mules’ - people who receive cash into their bank account and then pass it on to others, usually keeping some of the money for themselves. 

Students and other young people are particularly at risk of being recruited as money mules, as they are often away from home for the first time or in a new country. They may also have financial worries which makes them vulnerable, as criminals usually recruit money mules by offering a cut of the illicit funds. 

As a result, students may unwittingly become involved in money laundering which is a serious criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Even if you are unaware that the money you are transferring was illegally obtained, you can still be prosecuted for money laundering.    

What should I look out for? 

  • Be suspicious of job adverts that offer the chance to earn quick and easy money. Stick to reputable job sites and remember that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is. 
  • Don’t sign up for any opportunity without undertaking some proper research. Look up any prospective employers - do they have an online presence? Are the contact details legitimate? Are they based overseas? 
  • Don’t engage with any online posts offering large sums of money or accept message requests from people you don’t know. If you receive a message with a link to click from a friend, speak to them in person before you respond. 
  • Don’t share bank and personal details with anyone that you don’t know or trust - even among friends or family. If someone asks to ’borrow’ your bank account, say no. 

  • Always remember that if you aren’t sure about the source of the money, it could have come from criminal activity, and you could unwittingly be laundering money and end up with a criminal conviction. 

    What should I do if I’m approached?

    If you are not sure if an offer is legitimate or if you have been victim to this crime, please contact UCL’s Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Adviser, Sophie Bimson for advice and support by email on or on MS Teams.

    If you or someone you know has been approached, break off all contact and don’t receive or move any money. 

    You can also:

  • Report it by calling local Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. 

  • Contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 quoting ref: IFMM23. You do not have to give your name or contact details unless you want to. 

    Contact the independent charity CrimeStoppers 100% anonymously online or by calling 0800 555 111. Please quote ref: IFMM23. 

  • If you see it online, click the button to report it to the social media companies to get it taken down. 

  • If criminals have already got your personal information report it to Action Fraud National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre on 0300 123 2040 

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000