Don’t Be A Jack-ass

Today’s fraud lesson is about mules. A mule’s role is part victim and part accomplice.  The job of a mule  is most often to launder money or receive and re-ship goods.

Mules are needed because, although it is easy for criminals in one country to obtain credit card information from victims in other countries, it is not so easy to use stolen credit card info to obtain goods. For example: buying a big screen TV on the Internet with a U.S. issued credit card and having it shipped to Benin tends to make the card issuer suspicious. Having it delivered in the U.S. and re-shipped to Benin works better; for that you need a mule.

The following is an example of a typical mule recruiting attempt:

Subject: VASU LACES LTD

From: “Mr John Hicks” <vasulacess@hotmail.com>

To:  undisclosed-recipients:;

VASU LACES LTD is currently looking for a representative in USA & Canada
who will help us establish a new distributing network to get to our
clients that bought goods from us and
collect their outstanding bills which they owe company.

I want you to know that this a part-time job and you will be handling all
payments.

Terms And Condition:

To receive payments from the Clients.

Forward balance after deduction of your percentage/pay to us.

Compensation: %20

Customer will be paying via Bank transfer or payment to credit card accounts.

If you are interested forward us your Resume by fax or email,Or Fill in
the form below:

1. Full Names: ……………………………

2. Contact address: ……………………….

3. City: …………………………………

4. State: ………………………………..

5. Zip code: ………………………………

6. Telephone/fax number:…………………..

7. Gender/Age:……………………………

8. Occupation: …………………………..

Thanks and we await response.

Mr. John Hick

General Manager

http://www.vasulaces.com
vasulacess@hotmail.com
Direct Line:44 701 116 2388
Fax: 44 207 504 8447

In this case the subject of this message is the name of the company that is looking for help: VASU LACES LTD. (Note that the subject is all caps. This is practically a dead give-away for fraud.) Another common subject for mule frauds in particular is some variation of “Legal Representative Needed”.

The message is to “Mr John Hicks”  with an address of vasulacess@hotmail.com. This is an outstanding bit of diligence on the part of the spammer. They actually reserved an address that has something to do with the message. There is still a clue in this address though: Vasu Laces Ltd. is a real company with their own domain (vasulaces.com) but the address we’re supposed to respond to is at hotmail.com. Another dead giveaway.

As usual with this type of thing the “To” field of the message is “undisclosed-recipients:;” Your email client software may display something other than “undisclosed-recipients” but no matter how it goes about saying “I can’t figure out the recipient list” it means that several people got this message via Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc).

The body of the message indicates that the company is looking for somebody to do banking for them in the USA or Canada. In general, the fraudster is looking for somebody in a “rich” country to handle money for them. The UK is also a frequent target. If they speak German or French they’ll probably try Germany or France.

A couple of other general fraud indicators are the overall weakness of the composition and use of English in this message and the “form” using field names followed by a row of dots. The first indicates that the message was written by someone that is probably a local English expert but is probably not really fluent in the language. The “fields with dots” form and variations are apparently thought of as official looking in 419 circles.

Here’s another example, see if you can spot the mistakes:

Subject: Part-time position available. (243)

From: Buena Kammerzell <buenaka2psx@hotmail.com>

Greetings,

Please, review the information below.

ECG Inc company seeks for the individual to fill in the position of courier clerk. It is a home-based and remote position that can be part- or -full time.

The company was founded by Warsaw School of Economics graduates and exists since 2004 with its head branch in Warsaw, Poland.

ECG inc provides a service of a middleman between sellers and customers parts of the world and gives an opportunity to take part in product sales. All the facilities you need is a personal computer and internet access including printer/scanner to cooperate with us.

Right now we are hiring courier clerks in the US cities. The duties will include tracking and receiving purchased packages, sending them out using the pre-paid materials our company provides. The salary is $60 for each package which is summarized in a total monthly salary and paid at the end of each working month($1500 is a minimum guaranteed salary(does not depend on the amount of packages handled)

The requirements are:
-18 years of age or above
-presence at designated address on a regular basis
-availability of PC with internet access
-day time contact phone number.

All the duties are from home but may also require visits to local USPS office/FedEx/UPS.

The working hours and working volume:
-up to 8 hours a week-
4-10 packages handled weekly.

Mostly all packages are not heavy or bulky and will not require the special storage place.

To avoid any illegal issues or activities all the packages are being shipped/re-shipped by the big services like FedEx, UPS and DHL who have the strongest security systems nowadays. You can also inspect the contents of packages before re-shipping it to our customer.

We would be glad to start the application process with you if you match our requirements.

Please, email us at: jamonicalelacheur29@gmail.com

This one is actually pretty clean aside from using addresses at hotmail.com and gmail.com but there are still several telltale signs.

First, they are looking for “courier clerks”. Courier clerk is actually an accurate description of the position held by a fraud mule but it sounds considerably more legitimate than “mule”. Don’t be fooled though, they’re looking for a mule.

Second, they go a little too far in seeking to establish their legitimacy: “The company was founded by Warsaw School of Economics graduates and exists since 2004 with its head branch in Warsaw, Poland.” The real company (if there is one) would probably skip this and assume you’d look them up if you were really interested. This also begs the question, where is the URL for the companies web site?

Another frequent component of the mule recruiting email is this: “All the facilities you need is a personal computer and internet access including printer/scanner to cooperate with us.” Further down they specify that you also need a phone and a bank account. The implication being that you probably already have everything you need to do this job.

The paragraph beginning “To avoid any illegal issues or activities…” is also interesting. Using major shippers does not necessarily imply legality. It does however make it less likely that they’ll be shipping drugs if that makes you feel better. In fact, most frauds use private carriers to avoid entanglement with the US Postal Service, forcing victims to rely on local law enforcement. And, while the Postmaster’s Office doesn’t strike much fear into the hearts of most criminals, they are particularly formidable when it comes to fraud.

If you’re desperate, the above sounds like a really good deal and if you do a good enough job might even result in a paycheck or two. However, mules are disposable and in many cases never paid. And even if they are, they are still breaking laws in at least their home country and probably in others as well.

Delete messages like the ones above and avoid being a criminal and a victim at the same time. As we said in the title: Don’t be an ass.

Updated 5/24/2010

Another example:

Subject: Payment Agent Needed

From: China Steel Cooperation <csgtrep001@gmail.com>

To: [blank]

I am Chia-Juch Chang CEO of China Steel Cooperation (CSC). We need a payment agent/representative in your region. If interested, forward full names, company name, address, tel & fax numbers immediately to csgtrep001@gmail.com or
csgtrep@yahoo.com

Chia-Juch Chang
Chief Executive Officer

The “Payment Agent” ploy is very common since it more or less aligns with the nature of the “job” (laundering money). It also shows up as “Accounts Receivable Agent/Clerk” or other variations indicating that the job is to “receive payments”.

whitehouseWorking from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. We know.  Many of us telecommute from time to time.

If you can work from home, you don’t get snow days and you can’t use the excuse of “not infecting the people at the office” to take more sick days.

On the other hand, you can work in your pajamas and you don’t have to worry about missing the cable guy because you’re there all the time.

Like anything else there are pros and cons to working at home. Especially cons — as in ripoffs — and our email fraud post for today is about this second type of con.

Work from home fraud is particularly insidious because it usually takes advantage of an especially vulnerable group of victims. People who are looking for an opportunity to work from home are, by definition, looking for work.

Certainly some candidates looking for such work may just want to change jobs or enjoy the benefits of telecommuting. However, for the most part, this type of fraud tends to snare people who not only NEED jobs, but also may have limitations that make it more difficult for them to obtain traditional employment outside of the home.

A typical example of “work at home” fraud looks like this:

Subject: Home based Work

From: “Susan Wood” <atustraightforward@ctk.cz>

To: [redacted]

Dear Sir/Madam,

A unique offer on the labor market! We offer a vacancy that does
not require any special skills or many years of experience. This
job is designed in such a way that it suits an average person with
regular skills and habits. We invite you to work for us as regional
representatives. Flexible work conditions, high income and career growth is what we offer.

The minimal requirements for candidates:
– Resident of United Kingdom.
– Legal age.
– Clear credit line.
– Ability to work for 10 hours a week.

At first you need to send us your resume to our email susanwood00@live.com We promise to process each resume within three days. In any case you will be informed about the decision made about your candidacy.

Our company holds on to the strict privacy policy, and nondisclosure of private information to the third parties is guaranteed except cases regulated by legislation.

The first clue that this is not the job you’re looking for is the generic greeting:

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is the mark of an unprofessional spammer.  A good one would have a list with names and software to merge the list into the greeting. Therefore, the generic greeting is a good clue but you’re just as likely to see your name (or somebody else’s) so it is only one clue.

Next is the description that includes “does not require any special skills or many years of experience.” They’ll take anybody because all they really need is your identity and your bank account.

If this is a mule fraud they might actually have you do some work picking up packages and reshipping them. Otherwise, they just want access to your money.

In this case, the bit about “regional representatives” is a pretty good indication that they’re looking for a mule.

They also offer “high income.” This example is somewhat unusual in that the compensation part is quite vague. Frauds of this type are much more likely to offer a specific amount. Usually in weekly increments like “$800 a week” or something similar.  It will usually be slightly above the upper edge of believability. The aphorism “if it sounds too good to be true, it is” always comes in handy for deciding if the email is fraud.

And just to show that they won’t take just any body:

The minimal requirements for candidates:
– Resident of United Kingdom.
– Legal age.
– Clear credit line.
– Ability to work for 10 hours a week.

Interestingly they’re looking for a “clear credit line” instead of a “clear credit history“. This is probably a usage error but they would really like it if you have a good credit line.

The need for the ability to work 10 hours a week is either a ploy to make the job look more real or, if this is a mule fraud, they really do need some of your time. The low hourly requirement is also helpful in attracting people who have regular jobs, but would like to make some “extra income from home” as they tend to say.

The final couple of paragraphs are also aimed at creating legitimacy. They really don’t care about your resume. Although, on second thought, the right resume might help them determine how gullible you are.

As stated in the first paragraph they’ll pretty much take anybody as long as you’re breathing and able to handle simple financial and shipping transactions.

These days, there are a lot of legitimate opportunities to work at home but most of them require some kind of skills like typing, writing, graphic design or computer programming; basically any job that requires spending all day at a computer.

Beware of anybody that asks you to pay for information about a job or that offers to pay you a lot of money for practically nothing.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Updated 5/24/2010

More examples:

Subject: Payment Agent Needed

From: China Steel Cooperation <csgtrep001@gmail.com>

To: [blank]

I am Chia-Juch Chang CEO of China Steel Cooperation (CSC). We need a payment agent/representative in your region. If interested, forward full names, company name, address, tel & fax numbers immediately to csgtrep001@gmail.com or
csgtrep@yahoo.com

Chia-Juch Chang
Chief Executive Officer

The “Payment Agent” ploy is very common since it more or less aligns with the nature of the “job” (laundering money). It also shows up as “Accounts Receivable Agent/Clerk” or other variations indicating that the job is to “receive payments”.

- -

OnlyMyEmail is an award winning hosted spam filtering service and business email hosting provider. Our enterprise cloud computing anti-spam solution, the MX-Defender, has the highest capture rate of any spam filter ever tested in the VBSpam Challenge, blocking a record setting 99.9993% of all malicious and junk email.

Our Personal spam filtering system is also a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution and has won both the PC World "World Class Award" and also the PC Magazine "Editor's Choice Award."

OME-Kids is a webmail solution that protects children from spam and other harmful emails. OME-Kids offers unique Parental Controls that allow you to choose the level of security and oversight that's right for your child.

Tags: ,

8 Responses to “Don’t Be A Jack-ass”

  1. Don says:

    This is so helpful…I am glad I googled about the fraudulent company…and came across this warning. Thanks a lot!

  2. Violet says:

    Thanks It’s people like you who post this type of info who save a lot of you from undue humiliation. During these hard economics times people prey on others and take advantage of those looking for work and income. Thanks

  3. ALAN says:

    I RECEIVED A CONTRACT AND JOB OFFER FROM E.C.G FROM WARSAW POLAND. SOMEONE TELL ME ANY INFO YOU HAVE ON THIS DEAL. IT SEEMS LIKE A SCAM TO ME.

  4. Mark Vice says:

    I love it!

  5. Darius Wallace says:

    I just Googled the company name ECG and the first article pointed to this scam. I get a lot of these offers like these lately. Thank God for the Internet!

  6. Wayland says:

    I also just received an email from E.C.G. and want to make it known that emails like this are completely illegitimate.

  7. Cindy says:

    I just received an email from this company and immediately put their company in for scrutiny and came across this website. Excellent warnings!

  8. Sabby says:

    I will like alert others about company scam….name “photovoltaic solar cells”. yes there is actually a company by the name of that, but there is someone who’s pretending to be that company wanting applicants to cash checks and keep 10%. i have fallen into that trap but only to the point of me depositing the cheque into my account but i have to run and cancel it…i feel so much like a fool right now…so please beware of this company and all others similar to it…you’ll get into sooo much trouble when u do..