People with mental health conditions are being targeted by fraudsters looking to use them as money mules – which could put them behind bars.
A money mule is someone who is recruited by those needing to launder illegally obtained funds.
And, even if the ‘mule’ plays no part in generating the money, by being involved in laundering the cash they are still committing a crime.
Detective Sergeant Mike Wood, from the Humberside economic crime unit, has issued the warning today, following a number of cases in other areas of the UK, to prevent those living in the force area falling foul of the scam.
He said: “The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s (NFIB) proactive intelligence team has identified an increasing trend of those with mental health issues being recruited.
“One man suffering with severe depression and dyslexia was jailed for three years after he allowed his bank accounts to be used by fraudsters to launder money.
“Although not from the Humberside area, the force is today highlighting his case as a warning to others.”
The victim told the NFIB: “When you are so depressed and thinking about taking your life, you just need someone to talk to.
“I tried to look for help but I am useless with computers and suffer from dyslexia, so I always found it hard to find support.
“I was an outcast in my local community. I don’t think people understand mental health.
“These fraudsters welcomed me. They talked to me and socialised with me. They listened to me and understood what I was going through.”
As their relationship developed, the fraudsters told their victim they were setting up an IT business and asked if he wanted to be involved.
He said: “I struggled to understand because of my dyslexia. They told me that by using my bank accounts I could be a part of their business.
“I am embarrassed now but I did not know it was a fraud. I did not have the ability to reason like a normal person.”
Those behind the scam remain at large. However, their victim was caught and jailed for three years for money laundering.
He said: “I feel such resentment towards these people. I am paying the penalty for what I did and I won’t see my children for three years.
“I just hope by telling my story, someone else like me with mental health issues will read this and perhaps think twice before saying yes to someone using your bank accounts.”
Sarah Murphy, head of advice and helplines at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “The issue of financial abuse of people affected by mental illness of any form is always a concern, and we would recommend that if someone suspects it is happening, to contact the police.”
If you believe you or a loved one have been targeted, call 101 or visit Action Fraud.
For more information, visit Rethink Mental Illness Advice