A warning has been issued after young teenagers have been recruited to help organised crime gangs to launder illegal money through their use of social media.

Criminals are turning to platforms such as SnapChat, Instagram or gaming systems to target young people and threaten, intimidate, and manipulate them into becoming a money mule for them.

Specialist officers tasked with tackling organised crime are urging people to watch out for the signs that criminals are using their bank accounts to launder their illicit cash.

Officers from North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) are trying to educate people about the consequences of getting involved in this type of organised crime.

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Tell-tale signs that someone might be involved could be them suddenly having extra cash, buying expensive new clothes or top-of-the-range mobile phones and gadgets with very little explanation as to how they got the money.

NEROCU Detective Sergeant Paddy O’Keefe said: “Most people think that being a money mule is quick and easy money and a victimless crime – but you couldn’t be more wrong.

“By helping organised criminals launder their money, you’re contributing to child and sex trafficking, supplying and distributing drugs, supporting modern-day slavery and protecting those who run these operations.

“We’re seeing more and more people being recruited through apps like SnapChat and Instagram as well as through messenger functions on game consoles.

“Criminals manipulate vulnerable people into helping them and often use violence and threats to control their money mules and they become trapped.”

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NEROCU officers and staff regularly speak to university and colleges students but they need parents to speak to their children about money muling and warn them of the consequences.

DS O’Keefe continued: “If your child has a game console or phone with social media apps then please take the time to speak to them about money muling. It can severely impact their future and poses a real risk to them.

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

  • If you are worried that someone close to you might be caught up in money muling, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report to your local police.