Young People Warned Over Instagram Hashtags That Could Lead to Jail
Criminals are targeting young people via social media to be ‘money mules’, according to Santander.
Santander has teamed up with a former fraudster, Tony Sales, to warn young people about the ways criminals recruit people into becoming money mules online. A money mule refers to a person who lets criminals use their own bank accounts to transfer dirty money, usually after being lured in with the offer of payment. If caught, those targeted could end up with a 14-year prison sentence.
According to research from the high street bank Santander, 70% of people don’t know what a money mule is, suggesting the majority of people who fall into the trap are unaware of what they are actually doing. And according to the fraud prevention firm CIFAS, the number of known money mules in the UK has risen by 26% over the last year. Of these, just under half (49%) are under the age of 25.
Along with Mr Sales, Santander has investigated how criminals are using social media, in particular Instagram, to target new and vulnerable money mules. They found that they are using enticing hashtags to lure people in with the promise of making easy money.
“The hashtags used to recruit money mules act as bait and form part of a secret language used to entice people into criminal activity,” said Mr Sales. “That’s why it’s so important to expose these hashtags for what they are – a fast track to a criminal record.”
Mr Sales has identified ten hashtags that are most commonly used by criminals to attract money mules:
According to Santander, 23% of people admitted they would click on one of these hashtags, with the most popular one being #PayPalFlip. However, this rises to 27% for those aged under 25. Of those who admitted to already clicking on one, 24% of young people said they had, compared to 15% of all people surveyed. And 24% of people think there aren’t any punishments, or at least don’t know of any, for being a money mule.
“It’s alarming to see not just how criminals prey on unsuspecting social media users, but how many people are unaware of what a money mule even is,” said Chris Ainsley, head of fraud strategy at Santander. “It takes just a few clicks to become embroiled in this type of crime, but the consequences can have a lifelong effect.”