Criminals don't like getting caught. So, when they want to send and receive stolen money, they get someone else to do the dirty work. Some scammers develop online relationships and ask their new sweetheart or friend to accept a deposit and transfer funds for them. Other cons recruit victims with job ads that seem like they're for legit jobs, but they're not. Law enforcement calls the victims 'money mules.' If you get involved with one of these schemes, you could lose money and personal information, and you could get into legal trouble.
Scammers post ads for imaginary job openings for payment-processing agents, finance support clerks, mystery shoppers, interns, money transfer agents or administrative assistants. They search job sites, online classifieds and social media to hunt for potential money mules. For example, if you post your resume on a job site, they might send you an email saying, 'We saw your resume online and want to hire you.' The ads often say:
- the company is outside the U.S.
- all work is done online
- you'll get great pay for little work
If you respond, the scammer may interview you or send an online application. He does that to collect your personal information and make the job offer seem legitimate. At some point, the scammer will ask for your bank account number, or tell you to open a new account, and then send you instructions about transferring money.
How to Avoid a Job Scam
Before you accept a job offer, and certainly before you pay for one, take these steps to protect yourself from job scams:
- Do an online search. Look up the name of the company or the person who’s hiring you, plus the words “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” You might find out they’ve scammed other people.
- Talk to someone you trust. Describe the offer to them. What do they think? This also helps give you vital time to think about the offer.
- Don't pay for the promise of a job. Legitimate employers, including the federal government, will never ask you to pay for a job. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- Never bank on a “cleared” check. No legitimate potential employer will ever send you a check and then tell you to send on part of the money, or buy gift cards with it. That’s a fake check scam. The check will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the amount of the fake check.
If you think you're involved with a money transfer scam:
- stop transferring money
- close your bank account
- notify your bank and the wire transfer service about the scam
- report it to the FTC
Tips for Finding a Job
When you’re searching for a job, use safe and reliable sources. Here are a few places to start:
- USAJobs.gov — This is the federal government’s official site with job openings nationwide.
- CareerOneStop — Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop lists hundreds of thousands of jobs. It also links to employment and training programs in each state.
- USA.gov — Find local government websites which list any open positions they may have on their websites.