Scammers are using unsolicited email and social media “job offers” to trick recipients around the world into falling for payment transfer scams. Victims are promised a percentage of the payments transferred. In fact, the scheme is a method of “laundering” stolen money and victims may be unwittingly participating in illegal activities.
These bogus “job offers” are very common. The messages ask recipients to accept cash or cheque payments into their bank accounts and then wire-transfer the payment to the “company” running the scam. In some versions, victims are asked to accept direct electronic transfers into their own bank accounts. Victims are instructed to keep a specified percentage of the transferred funds as payment.
How These Job Scams Work
Typically, the scammers claim that there is some impediment, such as slow processing or currency conversion problems, which stops them from accepting overseas payments in their country. Therefore, they claim, they need an overseas “agent” who can accept payments and then forward these payments back to them in an acceptable format such as a wire transfer. However, the real purpose of such schemes is to “launder” stolen funds by making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to follow the money trail.
Money stolen from bank accounts, proceeds from online fraud, and payments for nonexistent items sold on eBay may end up in the agent’s account for “sanitation”. For example, the criminal may transfer funds from a bank account recently compromised by a phishing attack into the “agent’s” personal account. The agent will then subtract his or her percentage and wire the remaining stolen money overseas to the criminal. Thus, the money trail may lead police directly to the agent. Meanwhile, the criminal has been able to collect the stolen funds unhindered and can simply disappear if things get hot. On the other hand, the hapless agent is now an accessory to serious criminal activity and may ultimately be charged accordingly. Effectively, the agent becomes a “mule” to be used at will by the criminals responsible.
In some cases, the agent may be asked to “re-ship” stolen goods and equipment as well as transfer payments. The agent may become more and more embroiled in the shady world of international cybercrime until he or she realises what is happening or is left “holding the bundle” when the police arrive. Acting on what looks like a good opportunity may ultimately become an enduring nightmare for the victim. He or she may end up losing integrity and personal funds, and have to face very serious legal consequences.
Sadly, there are plenty of recipients naive enough to take these offers as genuine and apply for the “job”. At face value, it may seem like an easy and legitimate way of making extra money. The criminals may directly target potential victims by responding to “work wanted” ads or resumes posted online. In other cases, they may randomly distribute thousands of “job offer” emails in the hope of netting just a few victims.
Identifying Money Laundering Job Scam Messages
Job scam spam takes many forms. While some such emails may be fairly easily identified by poor spelling and grammar and far-fetched cover stories, others may be quite sophisticated and even include seemingly official logos and company information. Regardless of how believable a job offer may seem, recipients should keep the following points in mind:
- Any company or organisation that expects you to accept payments into a personal account and then forward it elsewhere should be treated with the utmost suspicion.
- No legitimate company is ever likely to employ someone to handle money transfers, sight unseen, via an unsolicited email. Employees that handle large sums of the company’s money are sure to be well vetted beforehand and well-qualified for the tasks involved.
- Funds transfers might be part of a legitimate job, but such transfers would always use the company’s own bank accounts, not the employee’s personal account.
- No legitimate company is going to “pay” an employee by allowing him or her to keep a percentage of funds to be transferred.
- In a progressively global economy, there are many ways for a company to accept overseas payments. Any claim that a company needs an individual to handle such payments via a personal bank account is likely to be bogus.
Treat Unsolicited Job Offers With Caution
All unsolicited job offer messages should be treated with extreme caution. Do not reply to such emails or provide any personal information to their senders.
Aside from the money-laundering ruse, scammers may also use job offer emails to trick victims into revealing sensitive personal information. Over repeated emails, the scammer may gain enough information to steal the victim’s identity. In other cases, the scammers may try to trick victims into paying upfront fees for bogus “training” or “job manuals” or trick them into transferring their own funds while waiting for a stolen cheque to clear.
The best thing to do with such job offer emails is to simply hit the “Delete” key.