Teenagers across Kirklees have been protected by police from falling into the clutches of criminals seeking to exploit them.
Specialist officers and financial investigators from the Kirklees Programme Precision Team have said more activity is planned after they identified and visited 20 teenagers thought to have been targeted by fraudsters or organised criminal groups.
The team visited the 14 to 18-year olds between March 26 and 29 to make them aware police believed crime groups were seeking to make them ‘money mules’ in an offence called squaring.
Officers treated the teenagers as potential victims of organised criminals seeking to groom them into committing crime.
The young persons were believed to have largely been targeted on social media through platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Squaring itself is a fraud offence in which criminals target often young and vulnerable people, and offer them a fee to either receive cash in their account or to set up a bank account for this purpose. The recipient is then told to transfer on the money by the sender.
The cash itself is linked to crime and officers have found victims have been approached often by means of deception through word of mouth, social media and even fake job adverts.
In most cases no fee is ever paid to the persons made to act as money mules, and those targeted can often not realise they have committed offences.
They can end up being threatened by criminals seeking to continue to exploit them and also ruin their own potential future prospects as those caught can be blacklisted by banks and unable to access credit.
Programme Precision officers themselves are embedded within each District of West Yorkshire and work with colleagues to investigate all manner of organised crime.
DCI Diane Johnson of Kirklees Police, said: “Programme Precision was established to both combat serious organised crime in West Yorkshire and to protect communities from its insidious effects, and this has been the basis for our recent operation.
“More operations of the type carried out this week are planned and we continue to appeal to residents to contact us with any information about organised crime in their communities.
“More information about squaring and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of it can be found at https://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/advice/fraud-and-financial-crime/fraud-and-financial-crime/money-mules-also-known-squaring “
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “This policing operation has achieved some great outcomes in helping to prevent a number of young people from being exploited, and the knock-on trauma that causes to their families and wider communities. My thanks to DCI Johnson and all those involved in the Programme Precision Team.
“Interventions like this really do highlight the importance of community intelligence and reporting suspicions when you have them. We all have a responsibility to safeguard young people, and look out for each other in general, so please do get in touch with the police or Crimestoppers in 0800 555 111 if you have any concerns.”