Criminals never cease to amaze us. If the recent outbreak wasn’t enough to fill your plate, picture yourself tricked into becoming a money mule for scammers feeding off the Covid-19 scare.
Many people have had their lives turned upside down and were not able to resort to remote work to keep their jobs. Those now seeking a work-from-home job may find themselves an accessory in a money-laundering scheme.
Are you feeling charitable?
Several fraudulent websites have blossomed overnight following the Coronavirus outbreak. However, this time, the crooks are not offering you any hand sanitizer or the latest updates on the crisis. Scammers posing as a legitimate charity foundation are hiring online customer service representatives that are required to do some groundwork in an initial stage. This bogus organization was using the information of a legitimate global crowdfunding community that helped nonprofit organizations from all over the globe.
The Vasty Health Care Foundation, whose domain is no longer active, was hiring individuals to help out with ‘donations’ and investigate local pharmacies allegedly violating pricing policies for medical products. After the detective work is done, the new recruits are told to file a report and keep any receipts to charge travel expenses. Sounds pretty good right?
Here’s the catch. After completing a couple of these pointless tasks, you’re asked to help wire a ‘donation’ from a contributor who wants to support the fight against the Coronavirus. You’ll receive a transfer in your personal bank account from the ‘employer’ and you’re asked to withdraw the money at an ATM. You’re even told to keep a portion of it for yourself. Now you need to deposit the leftover cash in a Bitcoin ATM by scanning a QR code received on your email from the perps. After the transaction, the money is permanently transferred to a Bitcoin wallet managed by the criminals.
Where did the money come from? Most likely, the amount was stolen from someone’s bank account, and you’re simply lending a hand to the criminals by laundering the stolen money into crypto currency.
How can you spot a money mule hiring scam?
Looking for work can give you a headache, especially now, in light of all the company closures. This is the perfect time for scammers to deploy their schemes by offering remote work opportunities. If you are looking for honest work, or know someone who is, we’ve listed some red flags that you should pay attention to while job hunting:
• Employers asking you to transfer funds (usually keeping a percentage) to another financial account (especially in crypto currency) or to deliver merchandise.
• Suspicious websites that have only recently been setup.
• Unrealistic compensation and unconventional letter of employment.
Bad actors are adept social engineers and are known to make up very good reasons to make you help them move money. Walk away immediately! The effects are potentially devastating, including:
• Not being able to access your bank account – authorities will most likely freeze your bank account during the investigation. You will be unable to access any funds, further straining your financial status.
• Criminal prosecution – you may be prosecuted for participating in the money laundering scheme.
• Repaying the losses of other victims – sometimes, the participant is held responsible and is required to pay back the victim.
• Becoming a victim of identity theft – most likely, the criminals have collected your personal information and may use it for other nefarious purposes.