Looking for a new job for the new year? Be careful which ones you choose to take on, as some might actually cause you to lose money. The most extreme job scams can even turn you into a criminal; putting you behind bars for a few years.
The most problematic schemes that have been on the rise recently are money laundering and reshipping cons. Usually, they’re posted on online job boards like Monster and Craigslist with promises of easy money and work-from-home opportunities. Or, if really determined to find victims, the scammers search for e-mail addresses of job seekers and send them realistic-looking offers, sometimes even using a technique called spoofing to make it appear like the e-mail came from a trusted or well-established source.
With Internet money-laundering scams, people usually get offered jobs to help with “process payments” or “transfer funds”; because as foreign nationals, the “companies” themselves can’t process the payments.
If the job seeker falls for this scam and accepts the “position,” they will use their personal bank accounts to move stolen or bad checks, planning to keep a percentage as their pay. If the scam uses real money, the victims are never able to hold onto them and might even become criminally liable for depositing the scammer’s forged checks.
“Almost always, the money the victims are transferring is stolen, and therefore, the victims are committing theft,” writes Pam Dixon in a report for World Privacy Forum.
What makes this scam even tougher on victims, aside from the fact that they usually end up losing their own money, is that in the end they might be considered criminals and even face jail time.
“If any reasonable person would have asked questions and you didn’t, you could go to prison for 20 years,” says Saskia Rietbroek, executive director of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists in Miami.
Reshipping or postal forwarding scams are also typically found on online job boards. These are usually portrayed as at-home jobs that involve repackaging items and shipping them out, typically outside of the United States. Scammers also usually ask victims to pay for the shipping charges out of their own pocket and promise reimbursement and compensation with a highly profitable check—which is usually fake or forged.
In addition to seeing their own paychecks bounce, those who fall victim to the reshipping scams may be liable for shipping charges and the cost of goods purchased online with stolen credit cards.
You may ask how the victims can be criminally liable. For starters, they handled goods that were stolen and followed scammers’ instructions to lie on U.S. Customs Service forms if they forwarded packages abroad.
So when you go looking for employment, make sure to avoid these types of jobs, or any job that is willing to hire you just because you have access to a bank account or can reship products—especially if these employers ask you for personal information like bank accounts, social security numbers or other forms of identitfication without ever going through a real interview and hiring process.
If You Get Involved
If you think your personal information has been stolen through these types of scams, or you were a victim, the first thing you should do is close the bank and credit card accounts that you were using. Make sure to check your credit report every once in a while, and report your suspicion to the police. And if you think anything you did for the scammers could have broken the law or can get you in any trouble, make sure to seek legal counsel.