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An employment scam to channel stolen funds

24 June 2007 Gareth Stokes

In the first six months of 2007, FAnews Online completed a number of articles warning readers about the dangers of Internet fraud. On 30 March we warned about techniques known as 'phishing' and email-spoofing. These practices are employed by modern-day con-artists to obtain personal information, which they later use to hack your bank account and steal funds.

In May we warned readers to steer clear of suspicious emails claiming they had won lottery prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, pounds or Euros. People who respond to these emails in an attempt to claim their non-existent prizes are at risk on two fronts. First they give personal data to total strangers, and second, part with thousands of rand to facilitate the transfer of the prize.

Today we focus on another cunning ploy being used by international scams artists to steal money. The plot is frightening in that you practically become part of the intricate operation, assisting in channelling funds from innocent victims accounts.

It starts with an uninvited offer of employment

This scam starts with an unsolicited offer of employment. A recent example includes the paragraph: "I want to inform you that HSBC Bank in UK is presently recruiting professionals in accounting, finance, admin, secretarial education, training, marketing, information technology, sales, business development and pharmaceutical, so if you wish to work in UK apply today."

We were surprised to note that a giant UK bank was looking for pharmaceutical staff; but stranger things have happened... If you respond to this email, you are again required to part with detailed personal information. The con-artist uses the employer employee relationship to lower your guard and ensure that you provide this information freely.

When payday arrives you receive an Internet transfer from an unknown third party, and not your employer as expected. The amount transferred is well in excess of your agreed salary and your 'employer' soon advises that you have to transfer the overpayment to their account.

Perhaps you believe there is nothing wrong thus far. However, what has happened in the interim is that your 'employer' has used information gained with the two schemes mentioned earlier to hack into some unsuspecting individual's bank account. The salary transfer you receive is actually money stolen from this bank account. The 'employer' in this instance has used you as a pawn in his attempts to launder the stolen funds.

When the originating bank discovers the illegal transaction, their response will be to reverse it. The originating bank is required to protect their account holder from the illegal transactions. Your bank is, however, unlikely to reverse the transaction that you initiated to your 'employer'.

Treat ALL unsolicited requests with suspicion

South Africa is still new to the world of Internet commerce. This fact has contributed to the low incidence of Internet crime in South Africa to date. As access to the Internet and to high speed broadband connections increase, we can expect this type of cyber fraud to rise too.

Consider all unsolicited offers with the utmost suspicion. If you win a lottery that you never entered, simply delete the mail. There is no luck in the world that can secure a win against such odds. Don't allow yourself to be fooled by: "Congratulations to you as we bring to your notice the result of Euro million Loteria Espanol 2007 promotions. We are happy to inform you that your email address have emerged a winner of five hundred and fifty thousand Euros!"

If an offer of guaranteed employment drops into your inbox, simply ignore it. A head hunter will contact you by telephone from a reputable recruitment agency. And NEVER allow anyone to channel funds through your bank account. A recent email received by us combines the employment trick with the age-old 419 letter scam. "I write to ask if you can participate and play the role of a foreign technical partner in the capacity of a consultant in an oil related contractual transaction worth about $20.5 million. No previous experience required as we will handle this aspect." Steer well clear of such request.

If you enter an employer employee relationship, the employer should pay your salary from their account. There is no way you should be accepting random deposits on your employer's behalf. Worst case you could end up being an accomplice in channelling the proceeds of crime. Best case you are going to lose some of your hard earned cash.

Editor's thoughts:
Fraudsters have to act quickly to launder the proceeds of Internet bank crime in today's electronic environment. South Africa has a number of laws which place the responsibility on the financial services industry to report suspect financial transactions. Have you attempted to report suspicious transactions to a bank, and how were your attempts handled? Send your comments to gareth@fanews.co.za

 

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