'Easy money' schemes a risk to young
Young adults are increasingly tempted to become money mules - risking a fraud conviction for a few hundred pounds, a protection body has said.
People short of cash respond to job adverts and social media posts that promise quick money for little work.
Criminals then ask respondents to launder money, by transferring stolen funds into another account or wiring it overseas, for a cut of the cash.
Fraud prevention group Cifas said those involved in the fraud risked jail.
The maximum sentence is 14 years in prison, and anyone found using their account in this way will see their credit record affected, making it more difficult to get a mortgage, bank loan or mobile phone contract in the future.
On top of this, the promised cut of a few hundred pounds is often never paid.
Other types of similar fraud include selling a bank account, knowingly making a payment that will bounce, or opening credit card, retail accounts or mobile phone contracts with no intention of honouring the credit agreements.
Criminals often target students and unemployed people. New figures show that those aged 21 to 30 are most likely to take part in these so-called "misuse of facility" frauds.
A total of 31,898 people in this age group were involved during the first nine months of the year, Cifas said. This was a 3.2% rise compared to the same period last year.
The biggest rise in cases in the same period was among 31 to 40-year-olds, with the number of people involved rising by 7.1% to 18,978.
"Our figures show that young people are disproportionately at risk of this type of fraud," said Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas.
"With Christmas only a few weeks away, we want to warn young people, in particular students, to be wary of anyone approaching them in the student union or elsewhere with promises of cash for the use of their bank account.
"Criminals may make it sound attractive by offering a cash payment, but the reality is that letting other people use your account in this way is fraud and it is illegal."