Job Scam: The Russians are Coming to Dupe the Unemployed

cybercrimeIn a sad commentary on just how desperate American job seekers are becoming, a Russian hacking gang has infiltrated major employment sites, offering members jobs that involve transferring funds internationally from home. It sounds simple enough: Deposit a check into your account, then wire a large portion of the funds to Russia, keeping a large "handling fee" for yourself.

Of course the check they send you to deposit turns out to be a clever counterfeit, and every penny that you wire is deducted from your account, likely causing you to be overdrawn. Surprisingly enough, thousands of people have been duped by this over the past year. Somewhere there's a Nigerian prince smacking himself in the forehead and wishing he'd thought that one up.

"Not only do the people involved lose thousands of dollars, but they could face criminal prosecution from the banks," says Joe Stewart, Director of Mal Ware Research at SecureWorks, an information security services company that protects businesses from hackers. They're the ones who keep hackers from getting your personal information from banking, credit card, health care and and utility companies. Stewart himself was responsible for cracking this particular scam, and even alerting some unfortunate participants that they were about to be duped.

There are many similar scams going on out there, and although they frequently change business names, account numbers and email addresses, most start with an email offering work from home that involves transferring funds to foreign accounts. They know the recipients are looking for work and vulnerable, because they've hacked into popular job sites' databases and harvest email addresses of those who have registered as job seekers.

If you respond favorably to their first email, they'll then offer to send you a check, usually for just under $3,000, to deposit in your own account, keep up to $500 for your time and effort, then wire the rest to an account in St. Petersburg, Russia, within 24-hours.

The problem? The check they sent you is fake, even though it looks completely legitimate with water marks, etc. The fakes are so good that it takes the bank as many as 10 days to figure out that it's not real, and by that time, your own money is long gone. Once you've wired it somewhere, you can't get it back.

job scam

Apparently so many people have been duped because of the authentic look of the checks. The scammers hacked into the databases of several companies that archive business check images, complete with account numbers, names, addresses and signatures. Using these elements, the criminals create their own checks.

SecureWorks uncovered a computer server that stored digital images of about $9 million worth of high-quality fake checks, each for slightly less than $3,000, written against some 1,200 business accounts, and turned this information over to the FBI.

"These kinds of scams are popping up all the time" says Stewart. But most have certain similarities, and he says you should be on the look out for the following red flags:

1. Too much money: No legitimate company is going to trust you with thousands of dollars merely on the basis of an email relationship. Basically, if it seems too good to be true, it is.

2. Poorly written: Bad grammar and misspellings are a sure tip off. They're hoping you'll cut the senders some slack on this because you think English is their second language. Don't.

3. Foreign and unsolicited: Don't trust offers for jobs you haven't applied for that come to you out of the blue, especially if they don't involve your particular skill set, and are from foreign companies.

It's a shame that these criminals are preying on the unemployed -- who are perhaps most in need of a financial lifeline -- but a little common sense is the best protection. The delete key is probably your best defense against internet job scammers.

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J Alexander

I received an e-mail supposedly from the IRS requesting info so that they could send me money owed me. I forwarded the e-mail to the FTC. Don't fall for this.

November 24 2010 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This scam has been going on for several years and only a moron could possibly fall for it. As far as unemployment, normal is 5%, so 10% only means that 5% more of the working force are unemployed than usual. Maybe they need to find another line of work.

August 05 2010 at 7:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Amerigo M. Cimino

Since we have been indoctrinated with government run economics, it's seems logical that checks will be sent to everyone! Does not have to be reasonable, just get checks from everywhere. Those Russians know.
Sounds too good to be true!

August 05 2010 at 6:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good Morning America and the Rest of the World. It's a shame that people are so desperate that they are falling for these silly scams. My son who was 14 years old at the time received 2 checks fedex for over 6,000.00 dollars from a major bank. Nothing but the checks, no other info. I called the bank they said the checks were good. I was not satisfied so I went to the bank and you would be surprised I mean really SURPRISED to find out hard it was to get anyone to really assist me AT THE BANK. Knowing my son was not entitled to these checks I kept asking to speak to someone higher up. Finally I was able to speak to a young man who put in some real calls and found out the checks were actually forged and he voided the checks in my presence and I made sure he gave me copies of the voided checks. My son is now 18 years old, during that time several people I know were receiving checks like that and cashing them through their banks and at check cashing places. And yes they were later proven to be forged checks. They even picked one guy up on his job for passing his check. No, he was not involved in the scam just thought it was his lucky day. My point is as I investigated the situation myself, I got very little assistance from the bank the check was drawn on. It was only because I wouldn't leave until I was satisfied that I averted a very BAD situation. Had I deposited these checks in my 14 year old son's account (on the advice of the bank) I would have had some serious problems.

August 05 2010 at 6:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

*** To the guy who wrote "Not easy to see when your starving and broke"

I don't know about you but a computer and service doesn't come free....Shut off the service and sell the computer and you'd be able to eat..Better yet get off the computer and go get a job.....Nothing in life is free...

August 05 2010 at 6:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reading through the comments, i wonder why people kept reffereing to Nigerians.I think the country has come down hard on Scammers , While the rest of the world condones it. Unless you believe Nigerians are smarter, while the rest of you are morons.Scam is everywhere ,especially in America and Europe. Take a look at your backyard people and stop giving a nation a bad name they dont deserve

August 05 2010 at 5:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't feel sorry for anyone being that stupid to fall for this scam! I get these letters and I laugh thinking no one could be that stupid!

August 05 2010 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

why would anyone trust russians.. theyre the biggest scammers on the planet

August 05 2010 at 5:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My husband collects these fake checks. He has a collection of checks made out to various political figures, Disney characters, serial killers, by now he's running out of names. We could put these scammers out of business real fast if everyone did what he does. We have to advertise for our business and that's how the scammers get our email address. Then they say they are buying something we are selling, but the payment that is sent is for a lot more (some invented reasons: secretary made a mistake; they owe somebody money and included that money so that we would pay the debt; etc) and they expect us to wire the difference somewhere. Yes, the checks look absolutely authentic. We even received authentic looking money orders. But we know they come from scammers, we don't deposit them. However, the checks are always delivered overnight, usually by Fedex. I figure it has to cost the scammer at least $20 to have a check delivered to a potential victim. If that victim then fizzles out and doesn't bite - the scammer LOST $20. That's the whole point. If everyone the scammers approached pretended to go along with the scheme, but was aware they are dealing with a scammer, these scammers would be very fast out of business. There are scammers everywhere - on sites where people advertise to sell things (Craigslist and the like), on internet match/dating services ( and the like) - use common sense and don't fall for fake stories. The dating con goes like this: your romantic interest has to make a business trip somewhere. Then gets robbed (or some other drama), so has no money, no passport, no access to funds. Begs you to send money for trip home, hospital bill, etc. Once you send any money, there will be no end to requests. Scam letters all sound the same - I've read hundreds by now and know after just reading a few words that this is a scam email. Learn the signs - Craigslist has sample scam letters published, and there is lots of info available online.

August 05 2010 at 4:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My Check just arrived in the mail today and it was Fed Exed and they did state if transaction was completed the same day check arrived that I would qualify for a bonus with next assignment...My scam was a secret shopper. Stated bad service at Western Union. I should keep $100 for myself use $200 to pay western union fees and wire money to.... then it says to fill out questionaire about service location...etc... So grateful AOL posted this story, not that the ck would have cleared my account anyway! But I don't want to be associated on illegal checks so it worked out

August 05 2010 at 4:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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