The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service have seized eighteen web domains used to recruit money mules for work-from-home and reshipping scams.
The seized websites claimed to offer jobs for a legitimate company as “quality control inspectors,” being requested to ship items from their homes or even purchase goods using their own credit cards.
The victims photographed the packages they received, reshipped them to a different address as instructed, and received $20 for each processed item.
“Employees” logged in on an online platform pretending to be the company’s collaboration system, from where the operators provided their instructions.
FBI accessed the account of one of the scammed “employees” and found a history of 25 fraudulent purchases, including a laptop purchased with a stolen credit card.
“The Hazelwood woman allowed investigators to use her credentials to log on to the LocalPost online dashboard, where records showed 25 packages shipped to the Hazelwood address, including a $1,500 laptop fraudulently purchased with a St. Louis County man’s credit card,” explains the Department of Justice announcement.
U.S. law enforcement has investigated the schemes since February 2021, after the FBI’s IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) received 64 complaints about the scammers.
While the websites have been seized now, their operators reside in foreign countries, so they have not yet been arrested by the local authorities.
The Department of Justice announcement says investigators hold evidence suggesting the scammers are based in Russia.
The seized domains now display a seizure notice with links [1, 2] warning employment seekers of the risks of home job and reshipping scams.
The 18 seized domains in this law enforcement operation are listed below.
If you previously visited these websites or had any exchange with their operators, you are advised to report it to the FTC and follow these instructions on what to do next.
Don’t be a mule
As people worldwide continue to work remotely, these job scams can look attractive, offering high payments for little work.
However, job seekers need to verify an offer’s authenticity and ensure that their employer is running a legitimate business.
In most cases, simply doing an internet search on the company and calling the provided phone number on the declared location can expose fraud.
While money mules may not actively participate in a scam, the FBI warns that they are still committing a crime.
“Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information, but is also a crime,” warns a press release by the FBI.
“Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible.”
If any individual or company requests you to send or receive money or items on behalf of others, chances are you’re being recruited as a money mule.