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ISO Conversation – Job Scams Explained

Andy Cummings

September 10, 2020

ISO Conversation – Job Scams Explained banner photo
Students are receiving emails asking them to apply for a job that they can perform a few hours per week from home. These emails appear to come from a well-known corporation, someone claiming they’re a professor, etc. The work itself is clerical, administrative, personal assistant, etc. – and the pay is stated to be weekly, often in advance. Who doesn’t like money, right? Easy money is cool, but unexpected dangers lurk in these waters

Who’s behind this? These emails are being sent by money-laundering gangs who have stolen enormous sums of money (via various means such as hacking, Business Email Compromises, ransomware, etc.) which is sitting in a bank-account here in the US – and they need the help of local money-mules to transfer the money as quickly as possible elsewhere to make the funds disappear.

So how do you spot one of these scams and outsmart the bad guys?

1. With any job you HAVE to know who exactly you’re dealing with – so:

Look for unusual email-addresses AND reply-to addresses. Job-scams are almost always from – or to – a free email account of some kind, for example Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, iCloud (which is Apple), etcetera. One might also see that it was sent from a Gmail-address but a reply gets sent to, for example, an AOL email-address – this should be a huge red flag to you.

2. Look at the context of the email:

If the sender claims to be recruiting for a corporation, no legitimate company would use a Gmail-address. Similarly, you would expect that a legitimate UTD “professor” would use their UTD email-address, not some free email-service.

3. Other giveaways to look for:

  1. Be suspicious if the job mentions that you’ll be earning a tidy sum per week, say around $300-$700, especially if they promise to pay you in advance.
  2. Again, be suspicious about the identity of the person – do your research and see if such a person even exists, especially if they claim to be a UTD professor or a Doctor.
  3. Be suspicious if there’s no actual interview.
  4. Following on to the above point, be suspicious if the person has an excuse not to meet with you – claims that they’re travelling, helping orphaned children, rescuing poor animals, etcetera – anything to make you admire them. We call this the Bunny Factor – ‘Aww, he’s saving the bunnies, he’s so nice that he can’t possibly be a bad guy…”.
  5. Be suspicious if they want to move from email-communications to another medium eg. text-messages/SMS, Messenger, Signal, etc. (this is a typical switch in case that email-account is shut down, as they regularly are).
  6. It’s a dead giveaway if you receive a check physically in the mail – or one that is emailed for you to print out.
  7. A sense of haste. These gangs are desperate to get the stolen money moved very quickly before authorities track and shut down their account, so they will urge you to move quickly. The gangs used to FedEx a check right to the student’s door, but it’s becoming common to receive a PDF of a check to print out and deposit – this makes the transfer of stolen money even faster for the gang.

We look out for each other at UTD, so please help foster awareness of this issue among your fellow Comets.
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