02/02/09 - Article No: 23

Fake Job Offers

This article looks at the different types of online fake job offer scams that can scam Internet users.

Fake Job offers typically fall into three different categories of scams – advanced fee fraud, money mule scams and check cashing scams, and sometimes a combination of them all. The aftermath of fake job offers can also potentially lead to identity theft and identity fraud.

If you want to increase you chances of spotting fake job offers in the future (Which will save time and maybe even money) then read this article.

How are the scams initiated?

In many ways. Scammers will crawl the Internet looking for people who need jobs. They know these people can often be desperate and distracted and hence would be more susceptible to being defrauded.
This means anyone who posts a CV to a jobsite of any kind are potential victims to fake job offer scams. It is a scammer’s version of a targeted audience – they already know the person they are emailing is looking for a job. This is not to say that if you haven’t posted your CV on a job site you will be immune to this sort of scam, because you still can be a target, simply by having an e-mail address. Often these scams are simply sent to everyone on a mailing list, meaning if you ever have received SPAM email before, you could be targeted by this type of fraud as well.
E-Mail is the typical method of initiating the scam, but online users should also be aware of fake websites advertising equally fake jobs. These can often look tacky so it is best to stick to jobsites you know and trust. If you do use a new one, research it on Google.

So those are the main ways these scams are initiated - so how do you go about spotting what is real and what is not?

If scammer’s got your CV from a jobsite, they may have your name and other personal details, which means the usually effective way of spotting scams through lack of personal details on the e-mail is thrown right out of the window.

The first sign is if the job is too good to be true. It is a sad fact, but there is only an extremely slim chance someone is going to offer you an easy job with high pay through an unexpected email. If you receive a job offer, step back and review it with common sense. Ask yourself if the rate of pay is really worth what is demanded from the job. People don’t throw money away, so if someone is claiming they will pay you $800 a week for driving a kid to and from school each day, you can throw it away. This takes us to a related point that fake job offers usually only claim the hours of work are small so it is effectively a part time job. Scammers know the part time nature will appeal to many who can do others things like look after a child or study. This makes the scam appeal to people who are generally more vulnerable to this type of scam like stay-at-home moms or students.

The nature of the actual “job” can vary, and it depends on which route the scam will take. (if its going to be a check cashing scam, a money mule scam or advanced fee fraud)

Check cashing scams will nearly always be work-at-home jobs and will involve the victim receiving checks and wiring money elsewhere. However the checks the victim recieves are bogus and will eventually bounce, but not before the unfortunate victim sends a portion of that money on through a money wire services like Western Union which is both non-refundable and untraceable. A popular example of a check cashing fake job offer scam is the victim getting sent an invitation to be a mystery shopper, along with a check to "pay for goods" though the scammers will make up a reason for the victim to send a percentage of the money back through wire transfer, for example they are testing the services of a money transfer service. Check cashhing scams are prolific because they allow the scammer to take advantage of a loophole where banks let customers withdraw money from checks yet to be cleared (and verified) and they allow scammers to get money into their country without being traced.

Money Mule fake job offers work in a similar way as they too rely on the victim getting fraudulant funds into their bank account, and money mule scams are often one and the same to check cashing scams, however with a few differences. For one, the money coming into the victims bank account is usually stolen, as opposed to a fake check. Because the money is stolen, there is a higher precedence on making it untraceable when it reaches the scammer. The money is usually stolen from phishing scams, malware scams or any scams that lead to identity theft. Money mule scams exist solely because the scammer needs to get money into their country without having to go through official international transactions which can be traced and often will block suspicious transactions. Like check cashing scams, the victim (the money mule) is asked to transfer money through Western Union, which will be untraceable since the scammer uses fake ID. This means that the money trail from the original crime will lead to the victim. There are also money mule scams that involve shipping stolen items, as opposed to stolen money, known as reshipping scams. Click here for more details about them.

Fake job offers that turn out to be Advanced Fee Fraud can vary, but the job itself is usually something menial like driving or babysitting – something that nearly anyone can do, making the scam appeal to as many people as possible. The scam will ask the victim to pay some sort of down payment before starting, like a security clearance certificate for example.

-Regarding fake job offers that go down the advanced fee fraud road – never pay anybody to work. It goes the other way around. No genuine job offer requires the employee to pay the employer for whatever reason. So if you find yourself required to pay for something before you can begin your job, you know you’re being scammed. The “employer” will either take your money and run, or request further payments before you can begin, then take you money and run.

-Regarding check cashing scams, as we briefly mentioned before, the employer will make up an excuse to send you a check or money transfer and for you to transfer a portion of that money back or on to somebody else. It could be the job description – i.e. your “job” is to accept checks or transfers and to forward a percentage on to somebody else, or that you were "overpaid" and some of the money needs to be wired back. The problem is, however, the initial transfer/check made to you is fraudulent and will be eventually reversed (even if it cleared intially) leaving you out of pocket when you forward money on - and possibly in trouble with the bank for cashing fake checks!

-Regarding money mule scams, the scammers will usually vait people with jobs like "payment processing agent" and go on to explain they need people in different countires to accept payments and pass payments on to people in different countries to speed up transfers. Of course jobs like these do not exist, since this is what we use escrow services for. Other fake job titles may sounds like "money transfer agent" or "payment collection agent". They are all the same role however, accepting (stolen) money and transferring them on using Western Union or MoneyGram (or similar).

A popular type of check cashing fake job offer is the au pair scam where an au pair or nanny will be accepted for a job (before meeting them) and get sent advanced payments. They would then be contacted again and told that for some reason they will no longer be requiring their services and asked to send the money back through another check or through money wire like Western Union. The au pair does this, but then finds out the check initially sent to them was fake and the money they sent back is gone.
If any job offer requires you to receive checks or money orders - again - you are probably being scammed. Another red flag with this sort of scam is part of the job description will involve receiving packages from the scammer. This is dangerous as it can cause innocent victims to be directly involved with other crimes, such as crimes that involve ripping off customers from auction sites like EBay.

These scams that involve receiving packages are referred to as shipping or reshipping scams. You can read more about them
here - as they take on many different variants that are not just limited to fake job offers. This shipping aspect of the fake job also tends to mesh with a check cashing scam, causing even more trouble for the victim. What happens is the unwitting "employee" victim receives packages from the scammer. The scammer will often pay for the delivery to the victim with stolen bank details. (a result of other types of scams) The victims "job" is to forward these packages on to other places - in reality they forward them to the scammer in Nigeria. The scammer provides the packaging and pre-printed labels to the victim so they can forward it to the scammer at no cost - or so they think. If the scammer didn't pay for the courier with stolen bank details, then they may have set up fake accounts with the courier with the victims details, meaning after the victims sends the packages, they end up with the freight bill. If the bank details were stolen, then since the shipping address would have been changed to the victims address, the victim could end up in trouble with the police for fraud. The packages themselves often contain stolen goods, a result of EBay, Craigslist and other selling site scams.

Don't be surprised if these scams offer a nice looking webpage to make them look more credible. Setting up a website these days is neither difficult nor expensive. Sometimes these sites can actually help you out. Examine the grammar - often there are mistakes that can be dead giveaways. Also check the WHOIS information and see if it matches up with what the website says. For more information on the WHOIS method, click here.

To summarise, the age old saying “if its looks to good to be true...” especially applies here. Don’t accept jobs that are advertised through unsolicited mail. Don’t accept jobs that say you can work from home receiving checks or packages and forwarding them on. Never use money transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram to send payments for whatever reason. Be sceptical of menial job offers that you receive via email that are for little hours and large pay and NEVER EVER pay anything to get a job.

If a company offers you a job, do the research! Google is there for a reason and if a company either doesn’t exist or has a history of fraud you can easily find this out with an Internet search. Don’t let yourself be the victim of job offer scams. You can have money, time and even your identity stolen from you.

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