Gardaí have said that they believe Irish bank accounts to have been used to launder hundreds of million euro by fraudsters and illegal online entities. They have said that they are concerned in particular that a disproportionate number of those bank accounts, knowingly used in exchange for payment, may have been provided by students.
They say that online scammers and criminals are targeting university students, who they perceive to be soft targets, to use their bank accounts to launder money. They contact students and others through social media offering them money if they allow their bank accounts to be used to launder money.
Detective Chief Superintendent Patrick Lordan has warned however that those found knowingly allowing money to be laundered through their account are at risk of jail time.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Detective Chief Superintendent Lordan said that, "There are several hundred student accounts in Ireland being used for this type of activity." He described the problem as being 'rife' among Irish universities.
He said that, "Custodial sentences are now in the frame. Because without a money mule, this fraud often doesn't work. It's like drug trafficking." He said that, there were instances of accounts being used multiple times, showing that the students in question were likely to be complicit in the fraud. "We've seen one student do it two or three times, so they know what they're doing. And they are now getting into trouble. Some have been charged and more will be charged." He said.
He described how a typical example of this type of fraud would occur. "What happens is that someone approaches a student and says 'a friend of mine wants to invest here in Ireland, but it's taking a while to get past the red tape, so I'll pay you €500 to use your account'." The money will then be transferred to the students account who will then move it onto another account in a prearranged transaction.
He said that while many students might not initially realise that what they are engaging in constitutes fraud, he said that anyone caught assisting such a scheme can be liable to criminal sanctions.
He said that any students who've found themselves in such a situation, or who've been contacted by someone