Seven hundred suspected money mules have been identified by gardaí in the past year, who say the average age of those involved is 19.

Money mules are people who allow their bank accounts to be used by criminals.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said suspects have been identified in every county in Ireland and warned that those involved are destroying their future.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan said young people are being targeted mainly on social media due to the lockdown but that many are also being recruited through school and college to act as money mules.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said those convicted of being a money mule face criminal records that could mean they cannot open a bank account in the future, get access to credit, take on a phone contract or travel abroad.

He also said they have the potential to end up on a terrorism watch list or for their activities to be raised if they are being garda vetted for employment or involvement in charity and sporting organisations in the future.

On RTÉ's News at One he warned that the crime carried a potential prison sentence of 14 years.

They said the average amount of money involved is €6,000 and that both men and women are involved.

One investigation has identified 53 people involved in the movement of €1.5 million, they said. 32 of them have been arrested to date and 17 of them are juveniles.

The bureau appealed to young people not to get involved with these schemes.

It urged parents to educate their children and to look out for signs that they may have become involved, saying young people are often stressed when they realise what they are doing is wrong.