Warning on work-from-home scams issued by web cops

Man working at homeConsumers who fall for work-from-home schemes may lose money, their identity and end up in trouble with the law, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warns.

Work-from home scams are nothing new, and thanks to the anemic job market, seem to be proliferating like never before. But victims of these scams often help cybercriminals move stolen funds, the IC3 says, and due to their participation, may face criminal charges.

Consumers are often recruited for these schemes through newspaper ads, online employment services, spam and social networking sites. But instead of becoming an employee of a legitimate business, recruits are exploited as "mules" for cybercriminals who use their bank accounts or those of other victims to steal and launder money. In the process, the home victim's account and identity may also be compromised by the crooks.

According to the IC3, here's how a typical work-from-home scams operates:
  • An individual applies for a position as a rebate or payments processor through an online job site or through an unsolicited e-mail (spam). Other common titles include "trading partner" or "currency trader."
  • As a new employee, the individual is asked to provide bank account information to their employer, or to establish a new account using information provided by the employer.
  • Funds are deposited into the account, which the employee is instructed to wire to a third (often international) account. The employee is instructed to deduct a percentage of the wired amount as their commission.
  • However, rather than processing rebates or processing payments, the individual is actually participating in a criminal activity by laundering stolen funds through his/her own account or a new account.
In February 2010, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) coordinated with state law enforcement officials and other federal agencies to announce a sweeping crackdown on job and work-from-home fraud schemes fueled by the Great Recession. And individuals who are knowing or unknowing participants in this type of scheme could be prosecuted.

The IC3, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center advises consumers to protect themselves from these scams by bearing the following in mind:
  • Be wary of work-from-home opportunities. Research the legitimacy of the companies through the Better Business Bureau (for U.S.-based companies) or WHOIS/Domain Tools (for international companies) before providing personal or account information and/or agreeing to work for them. In addition, TrustedSource.org can help you identify companies that may be sending malicious spam based on the volume of e-mail sent from their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Also review the FTC's recommendations.
  • Be cautious about any opportunities offering the chance to work from home with very little work or prior experience. Remember: if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Never pay for the privilege of working for an employer. Be suspicious of opportunities that require you to pay for things up front, such as supplies and other materials.
  • Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
  • If you think you may be a victim of one of these scams, contact your financial institution immediately. Report any suspicious work-from-home offers or activities to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
For more information, visit:
  • PhishBucket.org A nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting job seekers from fraudulent job offers.
  • OnGuardOnline.org Sponsored by the FTC, this site provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information.
  • Better Business Bureau This advisory was created through a collaborative cross-industry effort to protect consumers and businesses against account takeovers. Led by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), contributors include more than 30 of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., industry associations including the American Bankers Association (ABA), NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association, BITS/The Financial Services Roundtable; and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies.
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