Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Recently there has been an increase in the number of teenagers being used for the purpose of laundering criminal funds through their bank accounts. This is known as SQUARING.
Teenagers are recruited via social media, often Snapchat. The group most at risk are those aged 16-18 as it is likely they have increased account facilities but do not yet have a credit file.
Offenders will post an advert on social media looking to recruit people, offering “no risk” earnings in exchange for their account being used for funds to be transferred into and then a cash withdrawal by the account holder. This cash is then handed over to someone identified by the suspect, usually in person. This can put the teenager at additional risk as they will not know the person they are meeting.
The account holder receives a percentage of the funds, making this attractive to teenagers.
Once one person has entered in to the agreement it is common for them to pass the details to their friends as a way of getting “easy money”.
The teenager often does not appreciate that what they are doing is a crime, and sees this as victimless. They do not see where the money has come from or the crime type it goes on to fund.
What to look out for?
Teenagers often having new clothes, accessories and technology or extra cash that cannot be explained.
This is often passed around friendship groups, so look out for groups of friends discussing this or having extra money available.
Teenagers talking about a new “friend” they may be in contact with suddenly who has helped them obtain cash or new clothes/items.
What to do if you suspect squaring is taking place?
Make sure the parents/guardians of the child are aware and report this to the bank and Police via 101.
Money laundering carries the maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. Even without a conviction, the impact that such a crime has on an individual can be significant. Bank accounts can be closed with offenders often unable to open new ones. This makes it very difficult to obtain a student loan, have wages paid in to an account, secure a mobile phone contract etc.
The below YouTube video highlights the issues of teenage money mules; https://youtu.be/z711PEuHc5s
Emma Farrell (West Yorkshire Police, Crime Management Investigator, Economic Crime Unit)