Money laundering scams have always been out there. But now is the time that you need to really be on your guard. The scammers know that many more of us are working from home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been taking advantage of the crisis to ramp up their efforts.
The experts say that these money laundering scams, also known as “money mule” scams, fall into three categories. They are online love interests, work-from-home jobs, or lottery or prize winnings. Consider any offers or invitations to send or receive money in these scenarios suspect, even if they appear to come from someone you know. Scammers are regularly hacking people’s social media and email accounts. If you get some kind of emergency money request from a friend or family member… call them.
If you fall for any of these kinds of scams not only will you be out your money, but you could inadvertently be party to laundering or passing stolen money, and could face criminal charges!
Here are more details about these three common money laundering aka “money mule” scams.
The Online Foreign Lover Money Laundering Scam
In this very common scam, you enter into what at first seems an innocent and mutually satisfying relationship with someone far away. The two of your hit it off, but what starts as friendly chatter, starts to turn to requests for money, via your bank account or wire transfer.
The requests seem reasonable, and are usually based on that person needing the money to get a visa, or pay for the travel to come see you in person, and take your relationship to the next level. The Federal Trade Commission says that as soon as someone you met like this asks for money wire transfer info, stop communicating with the person immediately. This is a tell-tale sign of a money laundering scam.
The Fake Online Job Opportunity Money Laundering Scam
This is another very popular scam that is increasingly on the rise now with so many people out of work, and looking for ways to work from home. In this scam you will receive a solicitation for “online work,” in “expediting packages” or repacking, or re-shipping packages. You must pay the postage or forwarding fees out-of-pocket – then the company provides you with a fake “reimbursement” or “earnings” check.
You may face overdraft or bank fines, and worse, may even inadvertently be forwarding illicit materials. Thoroughly vet any job offers by investigating the company online, or with the Better Business Bureau. And again, any job offer that asks for you to pay anything upfront before you earn anything, steer clear.
The Foreign Lottery Money Laundering Scam
This literally is the “oldest scam in the book.”
However, you would be surprised how many people still fall for it. In this scam, you are informed via email that you are the winner of some foreign lottery. To collect your substantial winnings all you have to do is wire money to “insure” the prize. To improve your odds of winning a sweepstakes. You also pay “shipping & handling fees.” You may be asked for your bank account or credit card information.
Though these three are the most common scams to target your personal finances, they are certainly not the only ones out there. There are many others like “phishing” schemes, charity scams, and of course the famous, “Nigerian Prince” who needs your help in collecting his inheritance. Always be suspicious of these kinds of things, and remember trust your guts, if something seems too good to be true, about a sudden windfall, or “get rich quick” scheme – you are probably right.
Are you getting more scam emails since the pandemic? Are there any we did not mention that you would like to tell our readers about? Please reply using the comments below.