Any internet search for “Money Transfer Agent” returns dozens of job vacancies on all sorts of websites, all over the UK. But how genuine are these jobs? Should job seekers be suspicious?
Peter Hurst, Chief Executive of CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service says: “It’s sadly the case that many of these online job adverts are scams, and scams that could lead to a criminal record and exclusion from the banking system for the unwitting job seeker who gets sucked into illegal activities.”
“We are calling on the media, voluntary advice agencies like Citizens Advice Bureaux and Money Advice Centres, on Job Centres, recruitment websites and Government to do all that they can to ensure that unemployed people desperate for gainful employment are made aware of these scams and know what to look out for.”
How does the scam work?
Online job seekers are being used as unwitting “money mules” and are being asked to misuse their bank accounts by laundering money through them. Misuse of an account was the second most commonly identified fraud in 2012 – with over 45,000 confirmed instances, many of which bear the hallmarks of such “money mule” activity. Money from drug dealing, investment and boiler rooms scams, fake lotteries, people trafficking and prostitution is pushed through these scams, so that ‘dirty’ money is made to appear as if it is ‘clean’. Providers are legally required to close accounts that are used to launder money and can be heavily fined by international regulators if they fail to do so.
Students and those who have recently arrived in the UK have proved to be particularly vulnerable and the consequences for them can be very serious. The criminals behind these scams use mainstream recruitment websites, local papers, job bulletins and unsolicited emails, to promote seemingly legitimate jobs like Money Transfer Agent, Cash Flow Manager or Banking Manager. The pay is good, often with commission or bonus payments and the post is home based. The ‘employee’ may even be issued with a fake contract of employment. They are told that all they have to do is to receive funds into their account (electronically or by paying in cheques or cash). They are then required to withdraw the funds and to transfer them to a specific account, often using international money transfer services. The criminals behind such scams are also known to tell their victims that this is a legitimate operation and that the job works in this way in order to avoid ‘business transfers that take several days to complete’.
As Peter Hurst says ‘If a job sounds too good to be true – that is probably because it is! Those who fall victim to this scam need to understand that they are being duped into illegal money laundering. At worst you could go to prison for it, but it can have other serious repercussions such as the withdrawal of financial services.”
How can you recognise this scam?
The adverts can be so convincing that many job seekers are convinced that the job is genuine even when they are later told that it was not. But there are tell tale signs to watch out for:
· No legitimate employer will ever ask you to bank their cheques or their cash in your own bank account – if they are legitimate they will have accounts of their own. In addition, no legitimate employer is going to employ you without meeting you.
· Research any company that makes you a job offer. Check that their contact details (address, telephone number, email address and website) are correct and that they are registered in the UK. An employer without a landline number is another warning sign: and remember never to give your bank details to an organisation like this.
· Often adverts are put together by people in other countries whose first language is not English; so be mindful of any strange phraseology, mis-spellings, poor grammar and other errors as this can be revealing. The criminals frequently prey on those who are less likely to detect these errors.
· Unsolicited job offers will be a scam. You can’t be offered a job that you did not apply for and if you do provide full details about yourself and it does prove to be a scam, those details might also be used to open loans and credit cards in your name, making it even worse for you.
Peter Hurst says “Every week I read letters and emails from the victims of these scams. Some are still convinced the job offer was genuine and that their bank has unreasonably prevented them from continuing in their employment by closing the account. They have been completely deceived. Others are desperately ashamed about what has happened and want to make sure other people are not drawn into the same scams. That’s why CIFAS is campaigning for the media to draw this to everyone’s attention.’