A Meridian man’s life has been upside down for a quite awhile. Unemployed, working odd jobs, and trying to take care of his ailing wife, he thought he’d found a great opportunity to be close to home and earn extra money.
“The company said all I was required to do was repackage and ship the materials they were sending to my address,” the 50-something man says, asking that his identity be kept anonymous. “The money was good, and I would only receive items when I was ready to take them in.”
That was two weeks ago.
Since then, his home was raided by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspectors and countless other law enforcement officials who wanted to charge him with conspiracy, possession of stolen property, and assorted other minor charges.
“They said I was working for the ‘Russian Mafia,'” he says. “I was scared to death.”
Better Business Bureau reports every year on job seekers who are lured into what is known as a “reshipping scam” or “forwarding scam.” This scam usually involves foreign criminals that buy merchandise with stolen or counterfeit credit card and then hire U.S. citizens to ship it overseas.
The man said he posted his résumé on www.monster.com and was contacted by the company offering employment as a shipping agent. He says he would receive the correspondence and packages at his home address; photograph/scan the received packages and documents; repack the goods; and print the customs documents and prepaid shipping labels. He would then send the documents to a third address in California for reimbursement and payment.
The salary was $500/month, in addition to $30 for every processed letter and $50 for every processed box. The package he shipped went to an address in Russia.
“I was told not open the box, just forward it according to their instructions,” he says. “That was easy because I’m former military.”
He began receiving up to seven packages per day before the FBI stepped in to tell him that he was shipping the merchandise to the scammers.
The BBB offers the following tips on this and other employment scams:
- Avoid job listings that use descriptions like: “package forwarding,” “reshipping,” “money transfers,” “wiring funds” and “foreign agent agreements.”
- Do not be fooled by official-sounding corporate names. Some scam artists work under names that sound like those of long-standing, reputable firms. In some cases the scam artists will use a company’s information that has recently gone out of business.
- Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts for your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to “wire” money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer’s business account, not yours.
- Do not give out your personal financial information. A potential legitimate employer will not ask your bank account, credit card or PayPal account number. Only give your banking information if you are hired by a legitimate company and you choose to have your paycheck direct deposited.
- Do not fax copies of your ID or Social Security number to someone you have never met. Credit checks and fake IDs can be obtained with this information. Only give these documents to your employer when you are physically at the place of employment.
If you are offered or are involved in a foreign employment scam, call the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov.