Scammers will contact you and may pretend to be from your bank, HMRC or the police, they may do this over the phone, email, text message or social media apps. They warn you that there has been suspicious or criminal activity with your bank account, and then explain they have set up an account (a safe account) that you can transfer your money to. This will always be their account, and even if they say it’s in your name you will not be able to access it.
If you think you have been the victim of a scam such as this, we recommend that you contact your bank as soon as possible. You should also report it to Action Fraud. See Is this a scam? for details on the different types of scams and the related information for guidance on how to protect yourself from scammers.
A 'money mule' is someone who transfers stolen money on behalf of criminals through their own bank account.
Criminals will contact a person, either on the internet (via social media, a fake job advertisement) or in person, and offer to pay them for use of their bank account to receive stolen money and transfer it to another account.
Most of the money being transferred is stolen money and is used to fund further criminal activity such as terrorism and fraud.
Criminals usually target vulnerable people who are in financial difficulties as these people may see being a money mule as an opportunity to make money.
Once a person has transferred the money successfully there is a high chance that the criminals will want to repeat the process and may use intimidation if someone does not comply.
It is a criminal offence to let someone use your bank account for this activity and you could face a prison sentence of up to 14 years if caught. You could also have your account closed and find it difficult to access credit.
If someone asks you to use your bank account, report it to your local police force. Please see the link in Related Information for contact details.
Please also see the related topic, County Lines, in Related Information.
This could be a case of a bank error, fraud or identity theft (see question Q506 for further information about identity theft).
You should immediately contact your bank/credit card company to report the discrepancies and to terminate your card. The bank/company will have their own fraud department, if necessary, may investigate the matter in conjunction with the police. Take the credit card company/bank's advice on whether they want you to report the matter to the police, as it could just be a mistake, or, they may take on that responsibility, as in some cases they are the actual victim suffering losses, as you are likely to receive your money back.
If you think all of your credit/debit card(s) details could have been compromised you should contact the relevant banks and the credit card companies to stop your cards, as necessary.
If you think you have been the victim of identity theft you should ensure personal and financial information is kept secure, shredded or otherwise destroyed (do not put such material in the bin or take it to the dump/tip.
You should always be aware of information on your computer being accessed and take any appropriate security measures. There are a number of possible security threats you should be aware of -
◾ Someone could pretend to be you;
◾ Your card could be cloned. Be very careful when using cashpoint machines, particularly in public places. Criminals can put a realistic front on the machine which reads your card details, and a video camera photographs your pin number. Opportunist thieves could be looking at you entering your pin number, then snatch the card from you to then go on and use the card. Always cover the pin number entry with your other hand or by some other means if you can.
◾ Someone could use your personal details, obtained by a variety of means to obtain cash or property.
For more information, please see the websites in Related Information.
The police do not deal with benefit fraud, the Benefits Agency prosecute their own cases.
If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud then contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Q749: I suspect I have been a victim of fraud. What can I do?
If you have been the victim of a scam, fraud or cyber crime (e.g. hacking, malicious software), you should report this to Action Fraud. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. A link to the website can be found in Related Information.
For more information on the law relating to fraud, please see Q680: What is the law relating to fraud?