Online job offers, the reshipping and money mule scams

Pierluigi Paganini June 17, 2024

Offers that promise easy earnings can also bring with them a host of scams that deceive those who are genuinely seeking income opportunities.

Often, behind these enticing offers are pyramid schemes in which profits are generated through the recruitment of new participants, rather than through actual service, sometimes even causing significant financial losses. Other false offers may require initial investment without ever seeing a significant return or promise job opportunities with hidden fees. t is into this scenario that illicit practices such as moneny mules and reshipping scams can fit.

Money mules

This practice is illegal and encourages money laundering and other criminal activities. The term money mules refers to those individuals who are recruited by criminals to transfer illicit money through their bank accounts in exchange for a commission. Money mules are often unaware that they are committing a crime and think they are doing regular work.

In this regard, the State Police’s latest operation “EMMA 9,” a vast action to combat cyber money laundering coordinated by Europol and conducted in 28 countries, uncovered 2,729 fraudulent transactions, identified 879 money mules and foiled fraud worth more than 6 million euros.

The phenomenon of money mules certainly represents one of the established and ever-present aspects of online fraud. These individuals constitute the last link in the chain through which criminals monetize the proceeds of crime.” comments the State Police, “In the context of countering FinancialCybercrime, the prevalence of these figures is alarming and is endemic worldwide.”

“Drops for stuff” service

This common practice consisted of receiving high-value products purchased online by criminals and reselling them on the black market by relying on residents (willingly or unwillingly) in those regions under embargo because they were associated with credit card fraud (Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Russia). The SWAT systems breach a criminal service laundering expensive goods purchased with stolen credit cards exposed its operations, structure, and earnings. This provided information on operations, finances and organizational structure, revealing the modus operandi of the redemption scams and the financial strength of the criminals involved.

The service employed more than 1,200 people in the United States who, knowingly or unknowingly, participated in drop-off scams. The structure of this service, also known as “Drops for Stuff,” distinguished “drops,” people who responded to job ads from home to drop off packages, from “stuffers,” individuals in possession of stolen credit card numbers who paid a fee for drop-off to the Swat service.

As Brian Krebs  explained, most redelivery scams promised drops a monthly stipend with possible bonuses that were never actually received. In practice, packages arrived with prepaid shipping labels with stolen credit cards. The drops were responsible for inspecting and verifying the contents of the shipments, putting the correct shipping label on each package, and sending it through the appropriate shipping company. Once the stolen parcels were received and successfully returned, the traffickers could proceed to sell them on the local black market, dropping them.

“It’s not hard to see how reshipping can be a profitable venture for card fraudsters,” Krebs explains. “For example, a stuffer buys a stolen payment card on the black market for $10 and uses it to purchase over $1,100 worth of goods. After the reshipping service has taken its cut (about $550) and the stuffer has paid its reshipping label (about $100), the stuffer receives the stolen goods and sells them on the black market in Russia for $1,400. He just turned a $10 investment into more than $700.”

What to do to avoid running into these scams

It is critical to be careful when exploring offers that promise easy earnings. Offers that do not provide clear details about products, earning patterns, or company structure may hide pitfalls. Victims of these scams not only lose money, but can also be charged with receiving stolen goods or aiding and abetting criminal activity. To avoid problems, beware of job offers that are too tempting or require you to make money transfers, check the legitimacy of companies that offer abnormal redelivery opportunities.

About the author: Salvatore Lombardo (Twitter @Slvlombardo)

Electronics engineer and Clusit member, for some time now, espousing the principle of conscious education, he has been writing for several online magazine on information security. He is also the author of the book “La Gestione della Cyber Security nella Pubblica Amministrazione”. “Education improves awareness” is his slogan.

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, money laudering)

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