Tag Archives: Moneygram

The Dangers of Online Job Searching: Money Laundering and Reshipping Schemes

I almost don’t even know where to begin because this topic is so large, and actually sort of frightening.

The quick version is that you have to be extremely careful with online job listings, even when they appear on a site like CareerBuilder or Monster, and even if you contact them first. You don’t want to inadvertently end up helping criminals launder money or goods.

I’ve written quite a few posts on avoiding Mystery Shopper scams over the past seven months, but there are other types of employment fraud that may not even steal your money, but can lead you into being the only traceable link in a money laundering chain.

Money laundering is a felony, in case you were wondering.

There are thousands of fake companies with fake websites, offering attractive sounding part-time work-at-home jobs. Often these jobs involve transferring payments between clients, or receiving shipments of goods and forwarding them to their final destination. What’s really happening is that you’re being used as a “mule.” The process works like this:

  1. After you’ve been hired, you give the company your bank account information and wait.
  2. A large deposit, usually a little under $10,000 will be wired into your account.
  3. You are instructed to withdraw these funds, minus your “fee,” and use Western Union or Moneygram to wire it to different places, usually in chunks of slightly less than $3,000.
  4. You get arrested and interrogated for your involvement in international money laundering.
  5. You might not ultimately end up in jail, but since you gave this “company” your personal information, you become a victim of identity theft later on.

The “reshipping” version of this scheme works this way:

  1. After you’ve been hired, you wait for a shipment to arrive.
  2. A shipment of electronics arrives with instructions to send it to a “client.”
  3. You do exactly that.
  4. You get arrested and interrogated for your involvement in international fraud, because those electronics were purchased with stolen credit card information.
  5. You might not ultimately end up in jail, but since you gave this “company” your personal information, you become a victim of identity theft later on.

So, you might not be the one being robbed of money in this case, but you’re definitely helping organized criminals (usually based in Eastern Europe) steal money and conceal the source of their funds.

Whence is the money being stolen? Usually, from businesses or public entities such as the Delray Beach Public Library whose networks have been compromised with malware (the link takes you to a fascinating rundown of a real-life example of this scheme).

So, how do you separate the legitimate job listings from the money laundering and reshipping schemes? It’s not super-easy, to tell you the truth. These criminals are very skilled at creating fake websites and credentials, and they use channels like CareerBuilder and Monster to hook potential mules. There are some things to keep in mind, though.

  1. Ignore any job offer in which you were contacted out of the blue. You’ve heard this one from me before.
  2. If you’ve got a resume up on a job search site, be extremely careful of any company that contacts you first. Take a few extra minutes to check out their website and carefully read the offer. If it has anything to do with “part-time work-at-home,” there’s about a 98% chance that it’s not something you should pursue.
  3. Don’t assume that having a website means a company is legitimate.
  4. Watch for poor English in the job listing or on the website. One dead giveaway is placing a definite article before a city (“We are based in the London”), which I hear is typical of Russian speakers who aren’t quite fluent in English. However, they also cut and paste from real websites, too—absence of this type of evidence is not an automatic green light for you.
  5. Just be extremely cynical about any company that claims to be in the shipping business.
  6. Also be extremely wary of jobs with titles like “Financial Agent,” Financial Manager,” or anything involving “processing payments.” Companies either process their own payments, or hire other companies (not individuals) to do it for them.
  7. Ask yourself this: why would an international corporation trust some random person out of the general public to receive payments or goods and forward them to their destination? What legitimate reason could they have for needing a middleman?
  8. Apply for jobs only with companies you’ve either heard of, or with companies with a verifiable web presence beyond just their own websites.
  9. Look up the company address on Google Maps, and look at the Street View. Compare it to the photo of the company’s headquarters on their website.
  10. Run a virus and spyware check after you’ve visited any website that ended up looking fishy. Just to check.

It’s hard to even come up with these guidelines, because some of these job listings are so similar to real ones. However, I think the first place I would start when checking out a company is to head over to bobbear.co.uk.

Bobbear is an excellent site (despite its funky “straight outta 1995” appearance), with a running list of over a thousand active and inactive websites from fake companies. Under the section titled “Active Frauds,” you can view screenshots of these fake websites and a rundown of all the warning signs that they are fraudulent. I wouldn’t click any links under “Undocumented, Verified Fraud Sites” though, because these lead to the actual sites (and you never know what kind of malware might be lurking).

As you can see, there are hundreds of active sites. Check out nine or ten on bobbear, though, and you’ll start to see patterns that will help you stay vigilant when you’re looking for a new career.

“Super Seven Contest” Lottery Scam, Universal Trust and Finance Inc.

On Tuesday, a REGIONAL member brought a letter and a check to one of our offices. It was quickly determined that it was an example of a Lottery Scam.

Below is the full text:

UNIVERSAL TRUST AND FINANCE INC
INTERNATIONAL CLAIM DEPARTMENT
2065 KING STREET MORRISTON
ONT N0B 2C3
OFFICE HOURS:M-F:8AM-9PM,SAT:8AM-6PM

JANUARY 08, 2010.

NOTICE OF UNCLAIMED WINNINGS

CLAIM NUMBER: UTF 447734

This is to find out why you have not claimed the money which you won in the SUPER SEVEN CONTEST.
You are one of the second category Winners of the money Super Seven Contest held on the 3rd of OCTOBER 2009.
A ticket with serial no.461209 posted in your name drew the lucky winning numbers. This entitles you to the lump sum winning of $250,000.00 to be sent to you once the taxes on it has been paid.
Enclosed is a check of $4885.00 which was deducted from your winnings.
The sole purpose of this FIRST CHECK is for the payment of the applicable GOVERNMENT TAXES on your winnings.
The tax amount is $2985.00 to be paid through MONEYGRAM found at every WALMART store or any WESTERN UNION in any convenient store.
You will receive your tax information from your Claim Agent TOM HOWARD.

Please do not attempt to use this check until you call. We urge you to keep this winning CONFIDENTIAL until your claim has been processed and your cash remitted to you as this is part of your security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by non participants taking advantage of this program.
You are advised to contact the claim agent immediately for further clarification as indicated below within 10days.

You are to contact him at 1-647-686-5687 as soon as you receive this letter.

Congratulations!

Yours truly,

[signature]

MORRIS LEXINGTON
President

The check was indeed made out to the member for $4,885, and as far as I could tell (I’m still learning how to do it), the fractional routing number agreed with what was in the MICR line. I haven’t had a chance to seen the actual item yet, but I’m willing to guess it was printed on legitimate stock with all the security features intact.

However, there are a number of clues that you’re looking at a Lottery Scam. Ready?

  1.  The address given for the company is in Canada. There’s a reason “Canadian Lottery” is one of the terms used for this type of scam.
  2. The check is drawn off Phoenix Air, a cargo airline based in Cartersville, GA.
  3. You can’t see it here, but the signature did not look anything like “Morris Lexington.” In fact, it looked like “Paul” and something that ended with a B.
  4. They’re talking about a large cash prize in a contest the recipient never entered. You have to buy a ticket to win a lottery.
  5. When you pay taxes, you pay the government. You don’t use Moneygram or Western Union to wire the funds to a private organization.
  6. The spacing and grammar are weird throughout the letter.
  7. When you win any sort of lottery, applicable fees are taken out beforehand. They don’t send you money only to have you wire it back to them (even if they did, wouldn’t you also be taxed on the original $4,885, too?).
  8. They’re instructing the recipient not to tell anyone about their winnings. This is a massive warning sign. They don’t want their potential victims talking about the letter because they don’t want any better-informed people telling them, “Um, that’s a scam.”

There are probably another ten things I could point out, but if you know what to look for, the fact that you’re being told you won a Canadian contest you didn’t enter in the first place will tell you everything you need to know. Point #8 above is a very common feature of these scams—the attempt to isolate the potential victim from outside advice. This tactic seems to really target the elderly, who often aren’t as “hip” to the latest fraud trends. Make sure you inform your family and friends about these scams, especially those who don’t use the Internet or pay much attention to the news. Had they fallen for it, our member would have lost at least $2,985, and possibly more. Nobody needs that in their life.Incidentally, I Googled the phone number in the letter. Apparently the owner of that phone is also trying to hawk some computers and/or parts in online classifieds. That probably goes to show something about online classifieds, but we’ll get into that another time.