Don’t become a money mule. It doesn’t’ pay!”

Quick money is often an illusion, so don’t be tempted to become a money mule.  That’s the message that Belgium’s banks are currently promoting.  The banks have noticed that far too many young people are giving into the temptation and are ending up in difficulty. Many don’t realise they were doing anything illegal and now face punishment.

Money mules – sometimes called smurfers – transfer funds in person, electronically or through a courier service on behalf of somebody else and get paid for this.  Criminals use money mules to transfer their illicit funds.  Youngsters are often enticed to become money mules as it seems like the route to some easy money as they will be paid for their services.  Smurfers can be recruited at the school gate, at bus stops or via social media, but beware!

Stefanie’s story – it’s not her real name - may give you pause for thought.  She was in search of some easy money and was seduced by a website that was looking for people to buy bitcoins on behalf of others.

“It looked very reliable.  It stated who they were, how much of your time it would require and what I could make.  All I needed to do was fill in my bank account number and I could start” she told VRT.

“To commence with small amounts appeared.  Within two days sums had risen to 5,000 euros.  A few days later my bank blocked my account.”

“Suddenly I couldn’t access my account.  I faced stress, worry, I felt dreadful.  I wanted to contact the website but suddenly everything had disappeared.  I went to the bank and filed a complaint at the police station. The police told me it’s happening more and more.”

Stefanie had never heard of smurfers or money mules and that’s why she decided to tell her story.  Often youngsters won’t even imagine they are involved in anything criminal, but at the end of the day they can still face a punishment.

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