Granted, I consider most scams to be some kind of “evil” but there are a few in particular that have their own special brand of sinister wretchedness. That is because in these scams, you will actually be paid, but unbeknownst to you, you’re scamming someone else! Keep in mind that these are pretty sophisticated scams, so you may only be one part of the larger puzzle:
Version One: The Payment Processing Clerk
As a “payment processing clerk”, you may be asked to set up a bank account at a specific bank to receive direct deposits or to handle expenses. The company who “hired” you will put money in the bank account, and then you’re supposed to wire that money through Western Union to other employees, vendors, or companies.
In reality, you’re just wiring it to the scammers. When a company requires you to have a specific bank for your direct deposit, keep in mind that the scammers may have hacked into that bank and electronically transferred stolen money into your account. In this scam, you will be paid to perform your duties for as long as the scammers can get away with it. After all, they need you to keep the scam going. However, once the bank realizes what has happened, you will be liable to repay those funds.
If you’re required to use a specific bank for any potential job you have been offered, contact that bank before you do anything, and let the bank know that you suspect the account may have been hacked.
Version Two: The Payroll Clerk
As a “payroll clerk” you may be asked to process checks at home. You’ll be required to purchase checks and a software system, (easily obtained through any office supply store) and the company will mail you the names, addresses, and the amount of money to send to these “employees.”
The amount of money on these checks is fairly significant, usually around $1,000 and up. That is because, unbeknownst to you, the scammers are running a whole different con to the person on the receiving end of the check.
That person, (who receives the check that you send,) may have been hired as a mystery shopper to evaluate a Western Union. They receive your check, cash it, keep $500 for themselves, and wire back $500 to a company overseas, thinking it’s all part of the assignment. What neither of you realize is that the checks are fake, drawn off of a non-existent account (or a hacked account as mentioned in the first scam) and that the money is just going back to the scammers overseas.
The “Mystery Shopper” isn’t aware of this until the check bounces, and you aren’t aware of this until the police come knocking at your door…because, since you’re getting paid, so you think it’s legitimate!
Version Three: The Money Transfer Agent
Scammers post job ads for “Money Transfer Agents,” stating that they need someone in the US to help them receive payments for their company. This scam is actually pretty straightforward: You pick up money at one Western Union (perhaps wired there from a Mystery Shopper) and wire it someone else (either to a hacked bank account, or to the scammers overseas.) In this case, you’re just a mule–and again, you still get paid, because they need you to do their dirty work!
Hopefully, you can see a theme here: companies who are overseas and require the use of Western Union or other wire transfer services. The scammers would never send you a bank-drawn check or use credit card information, because it’s too easy to track. If ever you come across a situation where an overseas company is trying to get a state-side agent: RUN. When the scam is exposed, (and it will be) you could be liable and responsible for the money you have transferred and mailed. After all, technically, you’re the one committing the fraud…the folks overseas just asked you to do it but you’re the one who completed the task.
If you want more information on avoiding scams, there are great references online like Snopes, ScamBusters, and the book, I Got Scammed So You Don’t Have To! which details how to spot these scams and others.
Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!