How to Tell If a Work at Home Job Offer Is an Illegal Money Laundering Position
Financial Money Mules
I have previously described how Internet scam artists having been so successful in gaining access to credit card and bank accounts that they were having problems moving the large sums of money acquired from these sources to places where they could access the stolen funds.
Most of the scam artists are a part of criminal organizations operating out of nations like Russia and the former Soviet states of Belarus and Moldova. However, the funds they are stealing come from places like North America, Western Europe and Australia.
The problem these criminals face is how to move millions of dollars from where they have stolen it back to where they are located without being detected by the authorities.
The criminals' solution is to hire innocent people into moving the money for them by offering these innocent victims what appears to be a legitimate online job that can be done full time or part-time from home.
Of course the people who fall for this scam are unwittingly becoming accomplices in a criminal activity by helping to move stolen money abroad. In the United States this involves breaking both Federal and State laws which can land these victims in serious legal trouble.
The graphic below shows an email I recently received offering me such a job.
Russia, Belarus & Moldolva - Home to Many of these Criminal Organizations
How the Process of Stealing and Moving Money Works
Once the criminals behind this scheme obtain access to bank and credit card accounts, they create and use dummy companies to bill the credit card accounts for phony transactions.
With access to hundreds of thousands of accounts, they can usually get away with a series of small transactions without arousing suspicion on the part of the credit card holder. After all, the holder of the card receives a statement once a month listing all of the charges made during the past month or so making it difficult to recognize small charges that he or she didn't make.
While the stealing may be relatively easy, getting the stolen money into the pockets of the foreign criminals is more difficult.
Most countries monitor the funds that are transferred out of the nation. The United States requires that any amount in excess of $10,000 moving out of the country be reported, making it almost impossible to move millions of dollars abroad $9,999 at a time.
The solution currently being used is to hire individuals to act as receiving agents for the funds. When these receiving agents receive the stolen funds they are instructed to take their commission and then transfer the remainder of the funds to the criminals in amounts under $10,000 via Western Union Money Transfer or similar services.
By hiring thousands of people operating independently as part-time agents, the criminals are able to move the money without being detected.
An added benefit of this type of organizational set-up is that it is decentralized with none of the agents knowing who else is in the organization.
This means that the discovery and closing down of one agent will have very little impact on the organization as a whole.
The extent of this scam was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago when one of my teenage sons told me about the wonderful job opportunity that he had received from CareerBuilder.com.
As soon as he started to describe the job, I instantly knew what it was.
I told him to delete the email and not to respond to any job offers from the Internet without showing me first.
Not having looked at the email I don't know if the phishers duped Career Builder (a legitimate site) into forwarding the email or if they just made it look like it came from Career Builder.
Since then I have been looking more closely at what my Spam filters at home and work catch and have noticed a large number of such offers addressed to me.
Most of these solicitations are fairly simplistic with a vague offer of good pay, easy spare-time work from home and an email address to reply to for more information.
But a couple have been more sophisticated. One came complete with a web URL which took me to an English language website of a company with an address and phone number in St. Petersburg, Russia.
While the web site was very well done, in terms of layout and graphics, and looked very professional, there were a couple of odd aspects to it. First, it was strange that a company that claimed to be an established Russian company that was just now expanding into the U.S. market had an English only website.
Another odd aspect was the fact that nowhere was there any mention of its products. The final give away was its FAQ page which described in detail how agents were to transfer money by depositing the checks from U.S. clients into their bank account and then withdrawing the money in cash and taking it to Western Union to send to Russia.
Why make an extra trip from the bank to a Western Union office when you can go on line and move the money directly from your account to Western Union?
The answer, of course, is simple. Carrying cash to Western Union will probably go unnoticed as the agent's bank sees the money as simple cash withdrawals by a customer and Western Union sees it as a routine sending of money abroad which many people with relatives abroad do regularly.
It is only when the bank transactions and Western Union transactions are viewed side by side that questions arise. Multiple transfers per week, every week from a specific bank account to Western Union and from Western Union to Russia leaves an electronic trail which will soon attract attention.
I intended to go back later and make copies of the site for this hub, but when I went back a couple of days later all I found was a notice from a Russian ISP stating that the URL was available to purchase.
There is still No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
However, this evening I got lucky and received another email with a web URL. The email itself (see the text capsule below for a copy of the email) gives a good description of the job and how to do it.
When I put dadyshoping.com into my browser I ended up at the website for workplace clothing company named Garvey & Company (Clothing) Ltd.
It was a rather large site with displays of the different lines of clothing the company sold. Unlike the email, which was obviously written by someone who was fluent in English but lacked an understanding of the nuances of the language, the web page was done by a professional who not only knew the nuances of the language but also knew business English and the garment trade as well.
Unlike the lottery scam where the worst that can happen is that recipients who take the bait are tricked out of $2,950, this could be more serious as people who take these jobs are duped into breaking the law.
Unlike the Russian site, this site contained numerous pages of product. But there were two problems.
First there was no place on the site to make a purchase and, second, no place to contact the company other than by calling the telephone number on the home page or writing to them at the address on the home page.
When I did a Google search, the company didn't appear in the results, which was odd. After a number of tries, I entered the name of one of the company's clothing lines and immediately reached the website of Harveys & Company (Clothing) Ltd in Lancashire, England.
Except for the name and address, this site was identical to the Garvey & Company site. However, there was a page to contact them via email and, when you clicked on the clothes you were taken to a page where you could place an order.
It pays to look at these too good to be true offers very carefully.
Money laundering is a crime and, while most will be able to prove that they were legitimately duped and probably be let off, they will find themselves having to deal, not with a bank manager seeking to recover the $2,950 for the check that bounced, but with the FBI and IRS for crimes involving illegal use of the banking system, moving money illegally and helping to avoid taxes through money laundering.
Since the funds were going abroad, Homeland Security might get involved as well. Again, while these people who naively fell for the bogus jobs will probably be let go, I doubt the experience of having to prove their innocence to the Feds will be a good one.
Also, unless they have kept good records of the amounts received, commissions and salary amounts deducted and receipts for what they forwarded abroad as well as being able to show that they made the correct estimated tax payments to the IRS when due on the income they received, they could still find themselves being liable for fines and back taxes to the IRS.
Below is the full text of the email I received from the scamers seeking to hire an agent to handle their U.S. business. Note the overall sloppiness of the grammar and the amateur nature of the email supposedly from a major British company. Note also the detailed description of how the business works.
One indication that this is a fraud is the instructions to the agent to deduct the amount for commission and salary from the funds they receive from customers. How many business do you know of where employees handle company funds and are told to just pay themselves out of these funds?
Text of Email Offering the Job
Congratulations to you,
I have been directed to bring to you in offer of work on line from Home/Temporarily and get paid weekly? We are glad to offer you for a job position at our company, G & Co. FABRICS. We need someone to work for
the company as a Representative/Bookkeeper in USA( and its ENVIRONS)and in EUROPE. This is in view of our not having an office recently in the USA(and its ENVIRONS). You don't need to have an Office,and this
certainly wont disturb any form of work you have going at the moment. Our integrated yarn and fabric manufacturing operations use state-of-the-art textile equipment from the world's leading suppliers. Order processing, production monitoring and process flow are seamlessly integrated through a company-wide computer network.
* The average monthly income is about 4000.00 USD.
* No form of investments from you.
* This job takes only 1-3 hours per day
About the job.
We have sales representatives all over the world to distribute our products. You know, that it's not easy to start a business in a new market (being the US). There are hundreds of competitors, close direct contacts between suppliers and customers and other difficulties, which impede our sales promotion. We have decided to deliver the products upfront,it's very risky but it should push up sales on 25 percent. Thus we need to get payments for our products as soon as it possible.
Unfortunately we are unable to open Bank Accounts in the United US without first registering the company name. Presently with the amount of Orders we have,we cannot put them on hold. For fear of losing the customers out rightly. Secondly we cannot cash these payments from the US soon enough,as international Checks take about 14 working days for cash to be made available. We lose about 75,000 USD of net income each month because we have money transfer delays*.Your task is to coordinate payments from customers and help us with the payment process. You are not involved in any sales. we make direct contact for sales of products. Once orders are received and sorted we deliver the product to a customer (usually through FEDEX). The customer receives and checks the products. After this has been done the customer has to pay for the products. About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through Certified Checks and Money orders based on the amount involved. We have decided to open this new job position for solving this problem.
Your tasks are:
1. Receive payment from Customers
2. Cash Payment at your Bank
3. Deduct 10% which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed
4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the offices Payment is to be forwarded either by Money Gram or Western Union Money Transfer) or any Local Money transfers take barely hours, so it
will give us a possibility to get customer's payment almost immediately.
For example you've got 3000.00 USD, you take your income: $300.00 USD Send to us:2700.00 USD,First month you will have 15-20 transactions on 3000.00-4000.00 USD so you may calculate your income. For example 18 transactions on 3500.00 USD gives you $6300.00 USD Plus your basic monthly salary is 1000.00 USD Total: 7300.00 USD per month After establishing a close co-operation with us you'll be able to operate with larger orders and you'll be able to earn more. Our payments will be issued out in your name and you can have them cashed in your bank or other Cashing services. Deduct your weekly salary and forward the balance to the company via western union money transfer or money gramme money transfer We understand it is an unusual and incredible job position. This job takes only 3-7 hours per week. You'll have a lot of free time doing another job, you'll get good income and regular job. But this job is very challenging and you should understand it. We
are looking only for the worker who satisfies our requirements and will be an earnest assistant. We are glad to offer this job position to you. If you feel that you are a serious and earnest worker and you want to work for H & F FABRICS, kindly email us and let us know about what your interest is.
You con visit our web site through www.dadyshoping.com
© 2007 Chuck Nugent