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Barclays warns of 23 per cent surge in student money mules

  • There was a 23 per cent increase in student money mules last October, the start of the academic year.
  • Two in five money mules are under the age of 25, and one in five are under 21.
  • Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of young people don’t realise that being a money mule could lead to having a criminal record.

Barclays is issuing an urgent warning to university-goers at the start of the academic year, after new data reveals that cases of student money mules rose by 23 per cent last October1.

A money mule is someone that lets criminals use their bank account to move money, a type of money laundering. A lot of the time, money mules are unwitting, and often don’t know what’s really happening. They are either manipulated into believing a cover story, or lured by an offer of payment.

Two in five money mules are under the age of 25, and one in five are under 211. Additional research from the bank shows that over a quarter (29 per cent) of 18 – 21 year olds would be happy to move money around under someone else’s direction, if it meant being paid some money2,3.

Students might be more susceptible to becoming money mules due to the increasing cost of living, and a need for additional income, as data from Barclays shows that their essential spending has gone up three times more than the average Brit4.

Were they to be tricked into becoming a money mule, eight in ten (78 per cent) 18 – 21 year olds wouldn’t tell their bank, and another eight in 10 (78 per cent) wouldn’t tell their parents3. When asked why they would not speak to their parents, 33 per cent said they would be embarrassed, 28 per cent wouldn’t want their parents to worry, and 26 per cent would fear how they might react3.

Barclays is issuing an urgent warning to young people, and their parents/guardians, of the consequences of becoming a money mule. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of 18 – 21 year olds don’t realise that they could potentially get a criminal record, and seven in ten (69 per cent) aren’t aware they could face difficulty getting credit or loans3.

Ross Martin, Head of Digital Safety at Barclays, said: “Criminals will often set up fake profiles on social media, and make posts advertising quick cash or easy investments.

“Always be wary of people reaching out to you online with too-good-to-be-true opportunities, get-rich-quick schemes, and requests to pass money through your bank account.

“Remember, being a money mule can not only make it difficult to get credit down the line – like a student loan, phone contract, or mortgage – but you could also end up with a criminal record.”

Barclays shares the different ways that criminals are targeting young people:

  1. Social media – Criminals advertise ways to earn quick and easy money, using pictures of bank accounts with high balances to draw people in. Remember, most ‘get rich quick’ schemes are not what they seem.
  2. Job ads – Beware of job adverts that seem too good to be true. Criminals may pretend to be a legitimate company and then ask you to process payments for them through your personal bank account. Always do your research on the company before applying for any job.
  3. Refunds – Criminals may call pretending to be from a utility company saying you’re due a refund, but they will pay you more than expected. They then they ask you to send the overpayment back, but to a different account.
  4. Online dating – Someone may create a fake, online profile on a dating app or on social media to form a relationship with you. They may ask you to help them move money, using your relationship to manipulate you into trusting them.
  5. Investments – If you come across investment opportunities online asking you to move money on as part of the deal, this could be a lie to get you to act as a money mule. Investments that promise to make you a lot of money when you’ve only put a small amount in can sound tempting, but this is one way criminals disguise money muling.
  6. Loans – Adverts offering you a cheap loan are another way for criminals to trick people into becoming money mules, especially if they promise to give you a loan regardless of your financial history. They might say you need to boost your credit score before you can apply for the loan, and the only way to do this is to receive money into your account and move it on. Or they may overpay you and say it was an accident, and ask you to send the additional amount back to a different account.

Barclays shares the following tips for parents and guardians of young people to help them avoid becoming money mules:

  1. Talk to them about how to keep their bank account safe. Make sure they only share their bank account details with people they know and can trust.
  2. Help them understand how to recognise and avoid offers that look too good to be true. Remember, most ‘get rich quick’ schemes are not what they seem.
  3. Make sure they know to be wary of anyone who approaches them unexpectedly online, especially anyone asking to use their bank account.
  4. Explain they should never accept money into their bank account if they don’t know where it’s from.
  5. Ask questions if they start talking about a new job, or you see signs they’ve suddenly got extra money, especially if they can’t explain where the money came from.

-- ENDS --


1.Money mule incidents for those with a student product; October 2022 to September 2022.?
2.Money mule data for January – June 2023.
3 .ensuswide consumer research study of 2,000 participants aged 18 – 21, September 2023.
4.Based on Barclays student consumer card spending data, comprised of Barclays debit card and Barclaycard credit card transactions. Figures represent YoY growth, Jan-Jun 2023 vs Jan-Jun 2022.

About Barclays

Barclays is a British universal bank. We are diversified by business, by different types of customer and client, and geography. Our businesses include consumer banking and payments operations around the world, as well as a top-tier, full service, global corporate and investment bank, all of which are supported by our service company which provides technology, operations and functional services across the Group. For further information about Barclays, please visit our website

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