Students have been warned not to allow their bank accounts to be used to transfer money on behalf of criminals as to do so is committing the offence of money laundering.
Gardai are investigating a €2m fraud involving "Money Mules” - people who transfer money illegally on behalf of others.
The probe, led by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), is believed to involve some 200 "Money Mule” accounts which have transferred funds which are the proceeds of a multi-million euro fraud.
Gardai say the accounts used and which are now being investigated are from across the country and were used for single transactions ranging from £5,000 to £35,000. The ‘complex’ investigation is being undertaken with the assistance of Europol, the Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) and the relevant financial institutions where the "money mule” accounts are held.
Both gardaí and the BPFI are engaging in a FraudSMART awareness campaign about ‘Money Mule’ crimes which will focus on college campuses, as it is believed that students in particular are targeted by criminals. for the practise.
Detective Inspector Catharina Gunne from GNECB said some money mules may or may not be aware of the crime.
“However, they are complicit if they recklessly allow their account to be used to launder the proceeds of these crimes. Students are often targeted by Organised Crime Gangs to act as money mules, laundering thousands of euro through their accounts in exchange for a few hundred euro,” she said.
"If you agree to allow your account to be used in this way you are committing the offence of money laundering. Money laundering is a serious offence which on convictions carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. This will have a serious impact on your future travel plans, career opportunities, vetting and credit ratings."
Niamh Davenport, Head of Fraud Prevention who leads the BPFI FraudSMART programme, warned that young people need to know the warning signs that they are being targeted as a money mule, understand the risks and check with someone they trust if unsure.
“We know from experience that most of the recruitment happens online, but it’s having the conversation offline at home, college or work that could really make a difference to a young person you know,” she said.