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Home COVID-19 Criminals Are Exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic via Money Laundering Job Scams

Criminals Are Exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic via Money Laundering Job Scams

by Brett M. Christensen

Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, authorities are warning people not to fall for money mule “employment opportunities” that may come their way via email and the Internet.

With many people around the world unexpectedly unemployed or unable to work due to COVID-19, criminals suddenly have a much larger pool of potentially vulnerable victims to target. In the current lockdown environment, a seemingly easy to do and well-paid “work from home” job offer may seem very enticing.  Especially if recipients are struggling to make ends meet because they have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to the virus.

Many of these “work from home” job scams are designed to trick people into laundering money derived from criminal activities. These scams are certainly not new. In fact, they have been around for decades. But, as noted, COVID-19 means that there are suddenly many more people who may be susceptible to such scams and have no prior knowledge of how the scammers operate.

Victims may receive an email or social media message or see a job-board post advertising employment as a “customer agent” or “payment assistant” for what is claimed to be an international company. Supposedly, successful applicants can work from home and need no prior experience. And, the job offers a high income for minimal work.

The message will claim that the company needs someone to process payments due to issues with international transactions or some such excuse. To that end, the “workers” will be asked to process funds through their own bank accounts, deduct a percentage as their “wage”, and then send the reminder back to the company via a money transfer service such as Western Union or by posting or delivering cash.

In fact, the funds that the victims handle will be the proceeds of crime. By using this tactic, criminals can effectively “launder” their ill-gotten gains.

An April 2020 FBI Press Release that warns about the job scams notes:

When criminals obtain money illegally, they have to find a way to move and hide the illicit funds. They scam other people, known as money mules, into moving this illicit money for them either through funds transfers, physical movement of cash, or through various other methods. Money mules are often targeted through online job schemes or dating websites and apps.

Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information, but is also a crime.

Be wary of any job offer that involves moving funds through your own bank account on behalf of businesses or individuals that you are not directly connected with. No legitimate business is ever likely to ask workers to process business income through their personal bank accounts and send money via transfers or cash. Any job that has such a requirement should be treated as a scam.

You can read more about this type of scam here:

Payment Transfer Job Scams – Money Laundering Scams

Money Laundering