Criminals are targeting cash-strapped students to act as money mules, with the number of under-21s being recruited to launder money tripling in the past three years, according to figures from Barclays.
Nearly a third of all money mules - people who help launder money by receiving it into their bank account and transferring it on - reported to Barclays last year, by victims and other banks, were under the age of 21, says the bank.
And, with more than half of students worrying about their financial situation on a weekly basis, criminals are actively targeting them as they start the new academic year.
Gangs are using social media and messaging services to lure students into laundering dirty cash with fake job adverts offering easy money. These tactics appeal to students as six in 10 would be tempted to click through to find out more about a recruitment advert for a dream role at a company they have never heard of.
Meanwhile the added money pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, means that one in twenty students are more likely to consider making easy money if approached, even if it looks suspicious.
About 40% of students are unaware of the consequences of acting as a money mule, which can land perpetrators in prison for up to 14 years. When asked who they would tell if they were approached to be a money mule, only half of students say that they would turn to the police and only two in five would tell their bank.
Ross Martin, head, digital safety, Barclays, says: “With the start of the new academic year, it’s a prime time for fraudsters to be targeting young people with the lure of making easy money.
"It might be particularly tempting given the current situation with the job market and the need for extra money if family finances are tight. Always do your research and check that the job is legitimate - don’t run the risk of damaging your future career and finances.”