NORTH-EAST police forces have banded together to warn parents about the dangers of young people becoming money mules.

As new figures revealed that the number of 14 to 18-year-olds using their bank accounts for money laundering schemes has risen by 73 per cent, Cleveland and Northumbria police have set out to shed a light on those who prey on young and vulnerable people for financial gain.

As part of the Don’t Be Fooled awareness campaign, the two forces are contacting schools in the area to warn parents and guardians of the risks of their children becoming a money mule - someone who transfers stolen money through their own bank account on behalf of someone else and is paid for doing so.

In 2018, there were 5,819 cases of young people aged 14 to18 using their bank accounts for money muling in the UK, figures from Cifas show. This is a rise of 27 per cent on 2017 (4,849 cases) and a 73 per cent increase since 2016 (3,360 cases).

Police said young people are often unaware that acting as a money mule is illegal and are usually approached to take part online or in person, including through social media, at school, college or sports clubs.

Detective Inspector Jim Forster, from Cleveland Police Cyber Crime Unit, said: “People prey on the vulnerable, and children have unfortunately become targets for criminals who want to try to go under the radar without coming to the attention of the authorities.

"Many children wouldn’t understand that they are being used in this way, and could unknowingly be helping serious criminals with their ill-gotten gains.

"We would encourage any awareness-raising amongst parents and children and our school liaison officers will be raising this issue within local schools.”

Detective Sergeant Paddy O Keefe, Northumbria Police regional development officer for fraud, added: “Mules will usually be unaware of where the money comes from and that it can go on to fund crimes such as drug dealing and people trafficking.

“When someone is caught, their bank account will be closed and they will have problems getting student loans, mobile phone contracts and credit in the future. They could even face arrest for money laundering which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

“Don’t be fooled, think about what someone is asking you to do – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Help us to prevent these criminals from continuing their harmful, illegal activities.”

  • More information about signs and what to do in a money mule situation can be found at