On June 7, 2009, Mary called my Sunday morning radio show to ask about a propective job she had been offered. Like so many other people, she’s been having trouble getting a job, despite having two masters’ degrees. She said she was contacted by an international company that claims to be in the premium giveaway business. They want her to receive packages of premiums, check them over to make sure they’re in good shape, and reship them out using prepaid labels.

She had been offered a contract to do this work, and did I think it was legitimate?

I told her that I had seen a television show on one of the nightly news magazine programs, and the set-up she was describing sounded eerily like a work-from-home job scam. I told her to see if she could research the company, but then take a pass. I thought it was probably a scam.

Work From Home Money Mule Job Scam

Sure enough, we soon got a call from Greg, who told me he is a fraud investigator. He said that he was 100 percent sure that the job opportunity Mary was describing was a Money Mule Job Scam. Greg said that this is also known as a reshipping mule scam. The victim doesn’t lose money, but becomes an accessory to what is essentially a stolen merchandise/fencing operation, or fraud.

The criminals behind the money mule job scam use stolen credit cards to buy the merchandise and even to pay for the prepaid shipping labels. The person receiving the packages becomes a “mule” because they are re-labeling the packages and hauling them over to the post office to reship them.

According to Greg, more than 40 people in the Atlanta metropolitan area have fallen for this kind of money mule job scam in recent weeks. One person, he said, re-shipped 160 packages in a month.

Why aren’t these scams caught? Greg says that one reason is that the companies keep changing their names every month. That makes it very difficult to track them. He also says that the contracts workers are asked to sign are just there to make the process seem more legitimate. No one ever gets paid, because within a month, the scam artists have moved on to find other mules, in an effort to stay one step ahead of the law.

Recognizing a Work From Home Money Mule Job Scam

How can you recognize a work from home money mule job scam? Greg said to watch out for these telltale signs:

Ask Where You’ll Ship Merchandise To. Greg says this is a dead giveaway because it’s always to somewhere in Eastern Europe or Africa or Asia – never inside the United States or even Canada. If you’re being asked to resend to Eastern Europe, it’s a scam.

You’ll Be Asked To Agree to a Trial Period. Sometimes the victim will be asked to agree to a trial period of performance without pay. This is common in scam operations, although they don’t have any intention of paying you anyway. Legitimate companies will not ask you to agree to a trial period without pay. They’ll always pay you.

First Name Is Also a Last Name Greg says that many of the scam artists will choose a first name as a last name. So, Fred William, or William Fred. While I’m sure there are legitimate people named William Fred, this is another telltale sign of a scam.

Email Addresses Are Always Hotmail, Yahoo, or Some Other Free Service. If you’re working with a legitimate organization, they usually have their own email address that features the company’s website, like ilyce@thinkglink.com. You can then go to ThinkGlink.com to investigate the company. But in a work from home job scam, the so-called “employer” will often just use a Hotmail or Yahoo email address. Be sure to watch out for this.

Contract Seems Real, But Isn’t. Often in work from home scams, you’ll be offered a work-for-hire contract, to help make everything seem more legitimate. But as is often the case with phishing schemes, the contract may not be written in good English. That’s because the masterminds behind the scam don’t often speak English as their primary language.

While the job market is grim, don’t fall for any work from home job scams. And if you’re contacted by someone looking for a mule, you may want to contact your local police department or the FBI.

June 08, 2009

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