Is inflation pushing unwitting students into the arms of cybercriminals?

Money mule

Are students becoming the favourite target of cybercriminals looking for money mules? According to new data released by Barclays, the number of student money mules surged by 23% in October last year.

A money mule is someone who allows criminals to use their bank account to move money, effectively laundering money. Money mules are often unwittingly manipulated by criminals.

Data shows that two in every five money mules are aged less than 25. One in five are under 21. Students seem to be a good target for cybercriminals looking for an easy way to launder money.

Inflation may be pushing students to look for new, alternative sources of income to cover their rising living costs. According to Barclays, students’ “fundamental spending” has gone up three times more than the average.

Students are digital native, but not necessarily digital literate when it comes to being conscious about the threat of online crime. They may be less suspicious about job offers “too good to be true”: easy money-making opportunities, get-rich-quick schemes, and such.

The criminals look for naive victims to turn into money mules on social media, and they also use job ads, online dating services, investment, and loan related content.

Unfortunately, once tricked into becoming a money mule, they could be too embarrassed to report the incident to their banks, their parents, or the police.

The lack of digital crime literacy is quite evident, considering that 63% of young people do not realise that being caught acting as a money mule may damage their criminal record. And even more, 69%, ignore that this activity could hurt their credit rating, undermining the possibility of obtaining a loan or a mortgage in adult age.