Laundering money derived from a scam is an essential element of many scams. Scammers can be extremely clever at distancing themselves from their scams in order to avoid detection. The people they enlist either as willing or unknowing participants in the laundering of the proceeds of a scam are called money mules. Scams in which innocent people are lured into being unknowing money mules are numerous. One of the more common of these involves work at home scams where your job is to receive goods, often electronics that have been shipped to you, inspect them and then reship them to an address provided to you by your new employer. The problem is that these goods have been purchased with stolen credit cards and you have just become an accomplice to the crime when you ship them to someone else who will then sell them to turn the merchandise into cash. Other times the scammers will say that your job is to receive funds sent to you by the scammer, deposit the funds in your own bank account and wire the funds to people who the scammers tell you are either clients or suppliers of the scammers phony company. This was what happened recently in Utah where a young woman went to a branch office of the Bank of Utah to deposit money into her account and then immediately withdraw it to send to her “employer.” Fortunately, the branch manager, Melissa Bernson recognized the scam and put a stop to the scam and earning the gratitude of her customer who didn’t realize she was unwittingly about to participate in an illegal activity. In another related scam, you are asked to purchase gift cards with the money sent to you and to send the gift card numbers to someone. Finally, money mules are also used is in a variation of the romance scam where you are asked by your romantic partner to wire funds to someone on behalf of the scammer on a variety of pretenses.
As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Check out work at home scams with the big three – your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and the FTC. And as always, you can Google the name of the particular company offering you the work at home program with the word “scam” next to it and see what turns up. As for reshipping goods as a work at home job, they are always a scam and you should steer clear of them. You also should never use your own bank account to transfer funds for an employer. Asking you to purchase gift card numbers and send that information to someone is also always a scam and finally, you should always be skeptical of someone with whom you have recently established an online romantic relationship who either asks you for money (the most common scam) or asks you to pass on money to a third party as directed by the scammer.
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