As reported in the Irish Times on 6 August 2021, more than 700 “money mule” transactions totalling €5 million moved through Irish bank accounts in the first half of the year - with the majority of incidents involving 18- to 24-year-olds.
Money mules are recruited as part of a money laundering process which is also known as "smurfing" to transfer illegally obtained money between different bank accounts. Money mules receive the stolen funds into their account, they are then asked to withdraw it and transfer the money to a different account, often overseas, keeping some of the money for themselves as a commission.
Potential recruits can be lured via adverts for seemingly legitimate jobs as for example, money transfer agent or social media posts detailing opportunities to make money quickly.
Under 25s are being targeted as they are likely to have a " clean" banking history and may not consider the consequences of their accounts being used, that the funds are the proceeds of crime or being used to fund criminal activity. Those who have been involved as money mules will find their future access to banking and credit facilities more arduous.
The use of “smurf” is purported to have originated to describe Colombian drug cartels’ use of armies of elderly “blue-haired” old ladies to conduct money laundering transactions.
Criminals are deliberately targeting teens and young adults when recruiting money mules