What is a Shipping/ Money Laundering Scam?
Money laundering schemes are often portrayed as complex operations tied to banks and large corporations. Few people would think of online job boards as avenues for such scams, but scammers are increasingly finding utility in scamming job seekers using employment boards.
A money laundering scam is an attempt by a scammer to steal money by claiming that there is an employment opportunity requiring the job seeker to make transactions on behalf of someone else. Once the job seeker responds to the ad, the scammer extends an offer of employment, which includes using the person’s bank account to transfer money that has been illegally obtained.
Similarly, shipping scams are founded on persuading unwitting individuals to facilitate crimes. In this case, the job seeker would be accepting an offer of employment that requires them to repackage and re-ship stolen merchandise.
How Does a Shipping Scam Work?
Shipping scams are also referred to as “postal forwarding.” They are carried out by having workers accept parcels (usually containing stolen items), then repackaging and reshipping them. The individual repackaging the items is tasked with paying the shipping charges while the scammer provides them with a fake paycheck in return.
Similarly, money laundering scams rely on the people who answer the false job ad to use their personal bank accounts to transfer money that has been obtained fraudulently. Typically, the person transferring the money on behalf of the scammer is expected to use a portion of the funds as their compensation. This, however, is not an infallible way to earn money, as the funds will be seized if authorities find out about the scam. In addition, the transferrer can face major legal consequences for taking part in the scam.
How to Tell Real from Fake Job offers
The most effective way to avoid shipping and money laundering scams is to know the real offers from the fake ones. The first sign of a questionable job offer is the solicitation of money. Getting a new job may require a lot of things but money is rarely (if ever) one of them. A trustworthy employer will not require you to pay any fees or costs upfront in exchange for a job offer. Ziprecruiter is built on the principle that job seekers should never have to pay to get a job.
Do you know where fake job offers come from? Fake companies. After you’ve reviewed the job offer, conduct an internet search to find the company’s website. Also, look for company reviews. If you find a company website, match that information to the content of the email and proceed with caution.
Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other free email accounts are great for personal use. However, you should be wary of any employer who contacts you from one of these email providers about a job offer. Generally, company employees will use their company email address to contact you about a job offer. Fake job offers are more likely to be communicated through a free email address.
Frankly, most aspects of shipping and money laundering scams will come across as suspicious. However, one of the most prominent red flags is a suspicious location. These scams hinge on luring the job seeker to a strange location or having the job seeker receive money or ship to a foreign address. When it comes to legitimate job offers, even companies with several branches are not likely to require the job seeker to have dealings at suspicious locations.
What is Spoofing?
Another way to recognize a shipping or money laundering scam is to stay well-informed about recent news developments. Earlier this summer, WTOP reported on spoofing, a scam in which a culprit uses a federal phone number to get money from unsuspecting people. The number appears on the target’s caller ID, leading the call recipient to believe that they are being contacted by a legitimate source. The scammer, who facilitates the scam by manipulating the caller ID function, convinces the call recipient that they are required to reconcile some form of debt, such as a fine or penalty fee. Once the target provides their information in hopes of resolving the issue, the scammer uses that information maliciously.
Precautions to Take
Protecting yourself against shipping and money laundering scams can be done in a few simple yet effective ways. One way is to thoroughly vet all job offers. It can be hard to turn down a chance at having a new job, but carefully evaluating the job offer can be the difference between keeping your information safe and exposing yourself to personal and financial risk. Do research on all aspects of the opportunity, including the company, employee reviews, company location, details about the point of contact, and what you are being asked to do in order to secure the job.
Another way to protect yourself is to steer clear of “easy money.” Remember that nothing beats hard work and reputable employers know this. If the job offer includes a large compensation for very little work (i.e., repackaging and reshipping miscellaneous items for $5,000 per week), the offer is not likely legit.
Where Can You Report
If you or anyone you know has been targeted in a shipping and money laundering scam, reporting it can help to prevent future occurrences. The Financial Crimes Task Force (FCTF) is associated with the federal government and handles financial crimes, including shipping and money laundering scams.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which employs tactics to combat money laundering at various levels, can also be a point of contact for reporting scams.