There has been a big increase in the number of criminals targeting teenagers to use their bank accounts to launder money, according to gardaí.

The practice, known as "money muling" is now an ongoing concern and a problem across all counties, according to officers.

Gardaí said it is not just those in their late teens or early 20s being targeted, as secondary school students were being used.

As part of an awareness campaign, members of the Community Policing Unit and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau visited Transition Year students in Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan in north Co Dublin to tell them of the dangers.

They have been telling students how criminals target young people, often on social media, with the promise of €200-€300 in exchange for sums of money, sometimes as much as €30,000, to be transacted through the teen's account.

Students were warned about the dangers of being approached by criminals who want to use their bank accounts to hold and transfer large sums of money - the proceeds of crime.

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As Inspector Patrick Gillick explains, the teenagers are usually targeted online.

"It normally works that the kid is approached either on Snapchat or Instagram, by someone saying we can give you €300 if you want to sell your (bank) account to us.

"And they'll pass on the details and get the €300 and then their account is used to pass on fraudulent monies through and they're facilitating money laundering."

Inspector Patrick Gillick

That can bring heavy penalties, with jail sentences of up to 14 years. But teen "money mules" can also face other difficulties too and can have a lasting impact on a young person according to gardaí. Setting up a bank account later in life can be impacted they say, as well as travelling abroad.

Gardaí say that it is not just those in the late teens or early 20s being targeted, but students too in secondary school.

"This is a very big problem", says Detective Ciaran Loughrey from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.

Detective Ciaran Loughrey

"We've a number of ongoing investigations where literally hundreds of students have been identified who've allowed their bank accounts to be used. It affects every part of the country. It's a very big problem at the moment".

The Transition Year students at the Ardgillan Community College were today the first to take part in this new awareness campaign, which will now be rolled out to other schools.

They were told how criminals target young people, with the promise of a small sum of money in exchange for sums of money, sometimes as much as €30,000, to be transacted through the teen's account.

"I learned how common it is in colleges and universities and actually how easy it is to be fooled into it,' says TY student Tori Foster Carroll.

Those sentiments echoed by here classmate Seanie Whelan.

"The main thing is that you're going to be the one catching the consequences. Because most of the time it comes from abroad, so there's no way to get to them ... they pass the money through, you'll get a couple of hundred euro, they'll be gone. Then you'll end up getting caught".

Gardaí are also warning parents to be aware of the problem. They are also planning to spread the word in more schools in the coming weeks.

This is the first time gardaí have specifically gone into a school to talk about the issue and they say they hope to visit more schools in the coming months.