420 money mules have been identified in Ireland as part of a global crackdown on the crime.

In total, Europol identified 1,504 money mules and 140 money mule organisers, as a result of a targeted campaign from September to November this year.

168 people across Europe have been arrested.

Money mules are individuals who, often unwittingly, have been recruited by criminal organisations as money laundering agents to hide the origin of ill-gotten money.

Law enforcement agencies from across Europe took part - including Ireland.

Gardaí say they seized €300,000 in the past three months, interviewed 30 people and carried out 15 searches.

Five "herders" - people who recruit money mules - were also identified. 

The global operation which involved Europol, Eurojust, the European Banking Federation saw the opening of  837 criminal investigations, many of which are still ongoing.

More than 300 banks, 20 bank associations and other financial institutions helped to report 26,376 fraudulent money mule transactions, preventing a total loss of €36.1m.

Money mules are tricked by the promise of easy money to transfer stolen funds between accounts, often in different states, on behalf of others and are usually offered a share of the funds that pass through their own accounts.

Newcomers to a state, the unemployed, and people in economic distress often feature among the most susceptible to this crime.

This year, cases involving young people selected by money mule recruiters are on the rise, with criminals increasingly targeting financially distressed students to gain access to their bank accounts.

Europol said that while mules are being recruited via numerous routes, criminals are increasingly turning to social media to recruit new accomplices, through the advertisement of fake jobs or get-rich-quick posts.

To raise awareness of this type of fraud, the money muling awareness campaign "Don't be a Mule" kicks off  across Europe.

Detectives in Ireland said they are working to raise awareness in colleges and universities across the country.

They say that students are being targeted by criminal networks.