Looking for a Job? Don’t Become an Unwitting Money Mule!


Photo: Pexels / MGN Online

Summer is usually a time when many people look for their first job or additional employment to make ends meet. Some, desperate for a job, take on work-at-home jobs. The problem: Many of these are fake jobs and at the worst, fronts for criminal activity. Unsuspecting job seekers often apply in hopes of making the easy money as advertised in the help wanted ad. One particular work-at-home job can get people in lot of trouble. Here’s how it works:

You see a pop-up online or receive an unsolicited email or text advertising a high-paying job with little to no experience required. The position may have non-specific title like “Account Representative”. For this job you are asked to open a bank account in your name or the name of the bogus business, deposit checks, and forward most of the money (except for your fee) to another person. You may also be asked to wire funds, buy a pre-paid debit card, or purchase cryptocurrency. Now the trouble starts!

One of two things will happen:

  1. You will receive notice that the check you deposited was fake and then be liable for then money you withdrew along with any bank fees.
  2. You’ve may have moved money gotten from stolen credit cards, debit cards, or sale of stolen items. You are now what is called a “money mule” and an accomplice to a crime.

What should you do if you believe you’re a victim of this type of scam? Cease all activity with the company and contact law enforcement right away. Contact the bank or business used for money transfers and keep all receipts and written information about the fake company to provide to law enforcement.

To avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam in the first place, consider the following:

  • “Do not accept job offers that ask you to receive company funds into your personal account or ask you to open a business bank account.
  • Be suspicious if a romantic partner asks you to receive or transfer funds from your account.
  • Do not provide your financial details to someone you do not know.
  • Conduct online searches to corroborate any information provided to you”. FBI IC3
  • Be skeptical of emails claiming to be from job posting websites claiming there’s a problem with your account. Job hunters might receive a phishing e-mail saying there has been a problem with their user accounts for Craigslist.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilders.com or others. Phishing e-mails like this are designed to convince readers to click a link within the message that will actually take them to a website that will install malware or viruses on their computer.
  • Watch out for an employer asks for extensive personal information such as social security or bank account numbers. Regardless of the reason or excuse given by the employer, a job applicant should never give out his or her Social Security or bank account numbers over the phone or e-mail.
  • Walk away from an employer who asks for money upfront. Aside from paying for a uniform, it’s rarely advisable for an applicant to pay upfront fees for “background checks” or make a required purchase to get a job.

Source: BBB.org & FBI IC3

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org.

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