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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.


The refusal to give something back which has been borrowed is not automatically theft. In some cases it might have to be resolved using the Civil Courts and you may need to seek a solicitor for advice.


B borrows C's power drill. B keeps promising to return it, B does not intend to keep it and it is just left in the garage, but B doesn't get round to giving it back. If this is pure forgetfulness, which goes on for a fairly long period (despite reminders) it would not be theft. However, eventually there comes a point where C has been deprived of their property for so long that B has no excuse for not returning it (perhaps a year or more) and the Criminal Courts could consider if B had stolen the drill.

If you have a problem with someone who has borrowed your property and has not given it back, keep a record of all the occasions you have asked for it and then ask a solicitor to send a formal letter asking for the return of the property. If the property is still not returned, there may be sufficient reason to justify making a complaint of theft to the police.

Every case will be different and it may be, for example, that the borrower claims the property was a gift. In circumstances like that, the police may not be willing to take action and you could go to the Civil Courts for help to get your property back. In the case of a borrowed item up to a certain value, it may not be considered economically worthwhile to pursue.

Below is a summary of the offence of theft, it is not intended to be a comprehensive explanation.

"Theft occurs when someone dishonestly appropriates (takes possession of or makes use of exclusively for oneself/someone else without permission) some property that does not belong to him or her and treats it as his or her own with the intention of permanently depriving the rightful owner of the property."


◾ B is sat on a park bench with their mobile phone on the bench next to them when C runs past and takes the phone from the bench and runs off with it.

◾ B takes an item from the shelf of a shop and leaves the shop without paying for it (shoplifting).


If hired property has not been returned it will only be classed as theft in certain circumstances.


B hires a wallpaper steamer from C for a week and fails to return it on the due date. This does not automatically mean it is theft. B must have somehow treated the steamer as if it was their own property, sold it on or moved from the area and taken the steamer with them and in doing so permanently deprived C of the ownership of the steamer.

In some cases, hired property is returned late or there is some misunderstanding. This is likely to be a breach of contract. It is advisable to make some basic enquiries into the matter (or speak to a solicitor) prior to making a formal complaint to the police, so you can give them as much information about the circumstances as possible. There can be a fine line between a civil dispute and theft.

If you are in any doubt (once you have found out why the goods have not been returned), contact the police or a solicitor who will help to explain the law accordingly. A summary of the offence of theft is below, although it is not intended as a comprehensive explanation:

"Theft occurs when someone dishonestly appropriates (takes possession of or makes use of exclusively for oneself/someone else without permission) some property that does not belong to him or her and treats it as his or her own with the intention of permanently depriving the rightful owner of the property."


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.

Further Action

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.


Yes, it is. Burglary is where a person enters a building or part of a building without permission and proceeds to steal property from within. For many people this means that someone has entered their house without permission and stolen property from inside their house.

The whole body does not have to enter the house. If someone puts their arm through the letterbox and steal keys, for example, this is also classed as a burglary.

Examples of burglary:

◾B smashes patio door and opens it and goes into living room and steals a TV and DVD player and leaves the house with the property.

◾B puts his hand through an open window and steals a purse that has been left on a window sill.

If you have been a victim of a burglary, please contact the police straight away and try not to touch anything that you think the offender may have touched, as this might interfere with potentially crucial evidence. See Q756 for information on what to do to preserve evidence.

For further guidance on this and where you can register, for free, all property with a serial number, please see the links in Related information.


This may be an offence of making off without payment (also known in some areas as 'bilking') and can be reported to the police

The offence is committed when knowing that payment for any goods supplied to you or service done for you is due to be paid at that time, you then dishonestly leave without paying as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due.


◾filling a car up with petrol, failing to pay for it and driving off from the petrol forecourt;

◾eating a meal in a restaurant and intentionally leaving without paying for it.

The offence of making off without payment is a type of theft, and a conviction could lead to imprisonment and/or a fine.


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.

You can also report suspected benefit fraud online or by post


Identity theft is when your personal details are stolen and this could lead to identity fraud where a person uses your stolen details in criminal activity to obtain goods and services by deception without your knowledge or permission.

Your personal information is a valuable tool to a criminal and you should take steps to protect it. A few basic tips are:

  • Never throw anything away that contains your personal and/or financial details, always shred them first.
  • Never throw away bank or credit cards, statements and receipts, especially those with your name and card details on, always shred them.
  • Always keep valuable documents e.g. driving licence, passport, bank statements in a safe place out of sight from others.
  • Never divulge your pin number or passwords to anyone, a bank will never ask for them.
  • Check your bank statements and report anything suspicious to your service provider.
  • Be vigilant when giving your personal details to anyone over the phone, always check that their credentials are genuine.
  • Conduct a personal credit report check on yourself, which may identify any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity.

If you are the victim of identity theft it depends on the circumstances as to whether you, the organisation involved, or both, report it to the police.

For example,

  • you have not received a credit or debit card and you were expecting one
  • you have items on your bank or credit card statement that are not yours

You should report the loss or theft of your credit or debit card to your bank immediately who will cancel them and investigate any fraudulent transactions, if necessary they will involve the police.

If you are being pursued by an organisation regarding a debt you know nothing about, it is important that you contact them directly. The Citizens Advice offer further advice around what action to take, see links in related information for details.

Please also see the Information Commissioner's Office website in Related Information for further advice, including registering with the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS).

CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service offer a registration service for a relatively small yearly fee. Once registered an entry will be placed against your name meaning that any credit applications will be verified and possibly further identification required. This could delay any credit application but will act as a safeguard against any future fraud.


Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.


It depends upon the type of incident you are reporting. This area of law is very complex, so the following is a basic guide only (as there are exceptions).

Road Traffic Accidents:

  • Reportable road traffic accidents (see questions in related topics for more details) must be reported as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case, within twenty-four hours.
  • Minor road traffic incidents e.g. failing to wear a seatbelt, have a time limit on prosecution of 6 months.
  • Serious road traffic incidents (e.g. dangerous driving) have no such time limit for prosecution.


  • Most crimes do not have a time limit for reporting them.
  • The crimes that do have time limits are 'summary only' which means that they can only be tried at a Magistrates Court and are relatively minor offences; they must be prosecuted within 6 months e.g. common assault, harassment and taken without owners consent (TWOC).
Do bear in mind that the more time there is between the incident happening and reporting it to the police, the harder it will be for the police to gather the evidence.


There are a number of things you can do:

  • Notify all companies/organisations that you are moving, see below for a guide of who to notify and the website in related information for further detail.
  • Redirect your mail, see the website in Related Information, you can register for a minimum of a month and for a maximum of 2 years.
  • Register with the Mail Preference Service, you can register your new and previous address, see the website in Related Information.
  • If possible call round at your previous address to collect any stray mail that may have been delivered.

Suggested list of organisations to notify on moving to a new house:

  • Telephone / internet provider 
  • Mobile phone network
  • Local authority
  • Electoral roll
  • Water, gas and electricity providers
  • Insurance providers
  • Credit card companies, banks/building societies, store loyalty card providers, pension services
  • GP's surgery , dentist , optician
  • DVLA for your driving licence and vehicle registration
  • TV licence, cable /satellite tv providers
  • Organisation/societies that you are a member of i.e. sports clubs, gym membership, charities 
  • Other subscriptions services i.e. newspaper/magazine subscriptions 
  • Friends/relatives
  • Employers
  • Loyalty cards


What action you should take will depend on whether you and the suspect were in the same country when the offence occurred. If this is the case, you will need to make a report to the local police service of that country.

When making the report you should make a note of the date, time, details of the incident itself, which police officer and station it was reported to and any relevant contact information. This will help support any insurance claims made and will be useful if you are required to give evidence in court.
We would also advise that you find the nearest British Embassy, Commission or Consulate who will be able to assist you.
If you and the suspect are/were in different countries when the crime occurs then you will need to make a report to the police in your own country - not the country where you think the crime occurred. This is because there are official procedures that must be followed when investigating international crime, and the request must come from a recognised law enforcement authority.

To find your nearest Embassy and for further information, please see the websites in Related Information.


Informing the Police

You should contact the police using the non-emergency 101 number although if you consider the situation an emergency then use 999. The police may not send an officer out and you may be dealt with via the telephone. They will give you a crime reference number – you'll need this when you contact your insurance company to inform them what has happened or if you want to claim back your vehicle tax. The police will tell DVLA about the theft and if the vehicle is found.

If there is any evidence, for example, CCTV or items left behind by the thieves that may contain fingerprints then inform the police. Use gloves when handling any item for fingerprint examination and do not handle it any more than necessary.

If the thieves are arrested and charged with the offence then in appropriate circumstances they will appear before the court and be dealt with.

See Q622 for more information on your rights as a victim of a crime.

Informing your insurance company and the DVLA

Inform your insurance company of what has happened as soon as possible and keep them informed of any developments. They will explain what you need to do and how you can make an insurance claim.

If your insurance company pay your claim you need to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) you no longer own the vehicle. You can do this by:

  • completing section 9 of your registration document (V5C) and sending it to the DVLA together with a letter stating when the payment was accepted and including details of the insurance company, or
  • online via the link below:

You will then need to send the remaining part of the V5C to your insurance company. If your insurer ask you to send the whole of the V5C to them, send a letter to the DVLA providing details of the insurance company, the date of the claim and the following information about your vehicle:

  • registration number
  • make
  • model
  • colour

You must also include your signature.

DVLA contact details are as follows:

Customer enquiries: 0300 790 6802
Monday to Friday, 8 am to 7 pm
Saturday, 8 am to 2 pm

or write to:

Vehicle customer services
SA99 1AR

If your vehicle has a private registration number and you want to keep it, you must get it back before you tell the DVLA you no longer own the vehicle – see the section below.

Obtain a refund on your car tax

The DVLA will cancel your car tax as soon as you tell them you no longer own the vehicle – if necessary this includes cancelling your direct debit.

Private registration numbers

You can only get a private registration number back if the following apply:

  • You must have reported the theft to the police.
  • DVLA must have recorded the vehicle as stolen for at least 12 months but no longer than 3 years.
  • The vehicle must have been taxed and had an MOT at the time of theft.

Note that you can't get a personalised registration number back if you claimed on your insurance and told the DVLA you sold the vehicle to your insurer.

If your vehicle is recovered and you or your insurer decide to sell/destroy it, you must complete form V317 (see link below) and send it to the DVLA if you want to keep/transfer a private registration number.

You won't automatically receive a tax refund – you'll have to apply for one using form V33, which you can obtain from the DVLA via the contact details shown above.

Once you've got your private registration number back you can tell the DVLA you no longer own the vehicle – see Informing your insurance company and the DVLA.


The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales sets out the services that a victim of crime can expect to receive throughout the criminal justice process in England and Wales. It lists the organisations that must provide those services to the victim and sets a minimum standard for these services.

The full Code can be accessed via the relevant link in the Related Information section. However please find a summary of the Code below:

Right 1 - To be able to understand and to be understood

You have the Right to be given information in a way that is easy to understand and to be provided with help to be understood, including, where necessary, access to interpretation and translation services.

Right 2 - To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay

You have the Right to have details of the crime recorded by the police as soon as possible after the incident. If you are required to provide a witness statement or be interviewed, you have the Right to be provided with additional support to assist you through this process.

Right 3 - To be provided with information when reporting the crime

You have the Right to receive written confirmation when reporting a crime, to be provided with information about the criminal justice process and to be told about programmes or services for victims. This might include services where you can meet with the suspect or offender, which is known as Restorative Justice.

Right 4 - To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs

You have the Right to be referred to services that support victims, which includes the Right to contact them directly, and to have your needs assessed so services and support can be tailored to meet your needs. If eligible, you have the Right to
be offered a referral to specialist support services and to be told about additional support available at court, for example special measures.

Right 5 - To be provided with information about compensation

Where eligible, you have the Right to be told about how to claim compensation for any loss, damage or injury caused as a result of crime.

Right 6 - To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution

You have the Right to be provided with updates on your case and to be told when important decisions are taken. You also have the Right, at certain stages of the justice process, to ask for decisions to be looked at again by the relevant service provider.

Right 7 - To make a Victim Personal Statement

You have the Right to make a Victim Personal Statement, which tells the court how the crime has affected you and is considered when sentencing the offender. You will be given information about the process.

Right 8 - To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness

If your case goes to court, you have the Right to be told the time, date and location of any hearing and the outcome of those hearings in a timely way. If you are required to give evidence, you have the Right to be offered appropriate help before the trial and, where possible, if the court allows, to meet with the prosecutor before giving evidence.

Right 9 - To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals

You have the Right to be told the outcome of the case and, if the defendant is convicted, to be given an explanation of the sentence. If the offender appeals against their conviction or sentence, you have the Right to be told about the
appeal and its outcome.

Right 10 - To be paid expenses and have property returned

If you are required to attend court and give evidence, you have the Right to claim certain expenses. If any of your property was taken as evidence, you have the Right to get it back as soon as possible.

Right 11 - To be given information about the offender following a conviction

Where eligible, you have the Right to be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which will provide you with information about the offender and their progress in prison, and if/when they become eligible for consideration of parole or release. Where applicable, you also have the Right to make a new Victim Personal Statement, in which you can say how the crime continues to affect you.

Right 12 - To make a complaint about your Rights not being met

If you believe that you have not received your Rights, you have the Right to make a complaint to the relevant service provider. If you remain unhappy, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The police's responsibilities to a victim of crime are as follows -

A victim is classed as a person who is -

  • a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • a close relative (or a nominated family spokesperson) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • 'businesses' are not included in this definition (see Note 2 on Page 3 of the Code for more information on this).

As a victim of crime you are entitled to receive the following from the police -

  • if the crime is finalised at source (not investigated) then the victim must be notified of this within 5 working days (1 working day under Enhanced Rights – see page 10 of the Code);
  • must supply the victim with written information on what to expect from the criminal justice system as soon as possible, and not later than 5 working days after reporting the crime;
  • must inform Victim Support services of the victims' details within 2 working days of the crime report (unless the victim asks them not to do so);
  • If the case goes to court the police must inform victims of the date, time and location of the first court hearing;
  • inform victims within 5 working days of receipt from the court, if an arrest warrant has been issued for a suspect who failed to attend court and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested;
You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you within 5 working days of a suspect being:
  •  being issued an out of court disposal
  •  interviewed under caution;
  •  released without charge;
  •  released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.
Informing the victim can include by letter, telephone, personal visit, fax, text message or email.

Vulnerable victims

Vulnerable victims are provided with an enhanced service. You may be classed as vulnerable if -

  • you are under 18 years of age at the time of the offence or
  • the quality of your evidence is likely to be affected because:

(i) you suffer from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983;
(ii) you otherwise have a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning; or
(iii) you have a physical disability or are suffering from a physical disorder

Vulnerable victims must be informed within 1 working day if a suspect has been arrested or a warrant has been issued due to the suspects failure to attend at court.


It is legal as long as the advert does not contain the following phrases or variations of them.

  • no questions will be asked, or
  • the person producing the goods will be safe from apprehension or enquiry, or
  • that any money paid for the purchase of the goods or advanced by way of loan on them will be repaid.

If it does then both the creator and publisher of the advert are guilty of an offence and liable to be fined.

If your property has been stolen or lost, then registering it online on the Immobilise website may help the police identify stolen items 


It is much easier to steal a mobile phone when it is in use or on display. When you are using your mobile phone in a public place try and be aware of your surroundings and anyone that is perhaps stood close to you. In order to help prevent theft of your mobile phone keep it in a secure place on your person or in your bag.

You should also protectively mark your mobile phone. For further information on protective marking see the related question.

You should keep your contract or mobile phone box with the IMEI/serial number on it, in a safe place as the police will need to see evidence that you owned the phone, in the event that it is stolen. The contract or box are the only means of evidence the police will accept. A recent bill or delivery note will not be sufficient.

The IMEI/serial number on your phone is a number that is unique to your mobile phone. To find out what your IMEI number is type *#06# into your phone.
See the websites in Related Information for more information.


Yes as long as you are keeping the flowers for your own personal use and are not selling them. You cannot pick the whole plant, as that would be classed as theft. The flowers must be genuinely wild and not planted for a commemorative purpose etc. The same applies for picking wild mushrooms.
Despite the above please be aware that, there are certain designated conservation areas such as National Nature Reserves where extra protections exist to protect certain species or habitats and you should not pick any plants from these areas. 
It is also illegal to remove plants if local by-laws are in operation which forbid such activities and it advisable to check this with your local authority if you are unsure.


Fraud is the abuse of position, false representation or prejudicing someone's rights for personal gain. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years.


  • Fraud by false representation
    This offence is committed when a person dishonestly makes a false representation and in doing so intends to make a gain for himself or a loss for another. A representation could be a statement or an act, for example, giving a stolen credit card to a shopkeeper (you are implying that you have the authority to use that card when you don't) or implying that you have goods to sell on an internet auction site (and you don't).
  • Fraud by failing to disclose information
    This offence is committed by a person who has a legal duty to disclose information and who dishonestly fails to disclose it and in doing so intends to make a gain for himself or cause another loss. For example, a person failing to disclose certain facts to an insurance company when taking out a policy.
  • Fraud by abuse of position
    This offence is committed by a person who is in a position of trust and who dishonestly abuses that position and in doing so intends to make a gain for himself or cause another loss. For example, a person who is caring for an elderly person and has access to their bank account and buys something for themselves.

Fraudsters are always finding new ways to trick you out of your money. For more details on the types of fraud and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim, please see the websites in the Related Information section. There is also a link to the Action Fraud website that is designed specifically to report fraud and financially motivated internet crime.


Just because a car is advertised on a reputable site such as Autotrader or Ebay does not automatically mean that the seller is genuine. Many criminal gangs have been using reputable sites to advertise cars that don't belong to them or don't even exist.

Once the buyer decides that they want the car they are then taken to a fake website where they hand over the cash for a car that they will never see. The website is supposed to hold on to the cash until the vehicle is received (supposedly an independent place to hold the money whilst the deal is done), but it goes straight into the bank accounts of the criminal gangs, most of whom are based abroad.

There are a few ways to spot a fraudulent car sale:

  • Check the address and postcode are correct
  • Check the contact numbers – for a big company there should be a land line AND a mobile number
  • Look out for suspicious voicemail messages and spelling mistakes in emails/messages
  • Be wary if you cannot meet the buyer in person or if you can't physically view the car prior to purchase
  • HPI check can tell you whether a car is stolen, has any finance owing or if it has been written off – see the website in related information but please note there is a charge for their service

VSTAG (The Vehicle Safe Trading Advisory Group) is a forum designed to combat vehicle-related fraud and offer protection from this during the buying/selling process. You will find a link to their website in the related information section.


Yes you can, but there are certain things that you need to consider:

  • The camera must as far as possible only be able to film within the vehicle and the area immediately surrounding it. You must ensure that no private property or other place where a person can reasonably expect to have privacy is captured by the camera or you could find yourself pursued for damages through the civil courts.
  • If you intend that the equipment will be powered by the car's battery make sure the work is carried out by a professional so as to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation and doesn't flatten the vehicle's battery.
  • It is also advisable to contact your insurance company to inform them.
  • As an additional security note, if you install expensive CCTV equipment in your car, you should ensure that it is placed in a discreet position to avoid the equipment being stolen.

Please also see the Secured By Design website in Related Information.


It is an offence for a scrap metal dealer to purchase scrap metal for cash. The dealer must pay by cheque or by electronic transfer. The dealer is required to record the method of payment and keep a copy of any cheque or any receipt identifying the transaction. This is to assist in investigations of metal theft by allowing transactions and sellers to be traced more easily. These obligations apply equally to mobile collectors of scrap metal.

A mobile collector of scrap metal must have a collector's licence issued by the local authority for the area in which they are collecting. As with scrap metal dealers carrying on a business at a fixed site, mobile collectors must acquire the full name and address of any person who supplies them with scrap metal (even if given free of charge) and must verify this information by reference to documents, data or other information obtained from a reliable and independent source (e.g. photocard driver's licence or passport).

If you wish to enquire whether a scrap metal dealer is registered, you should contact your local authority directly. See the websites in Related Information for further details and to find your local authority.

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