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Scammers Target Unemployed with Phony Jobs

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Landing a job in a stagnant labor market, as many have found out, is no easy task. The process only becomes more frustrating when cyber-criminals begin capitalizing on that desperation for their own parasitic benefit. As the Wall Street Journal reports, increasing numbers of scammers have begun posting fake job ads across the Internet in the hopes of luring optimistic job seekers into their devious "mule operations." Most of the scams follow a basic formula: applicants, after posting their resume for a non-existent job, are "hired" and then asked to complete a trial project. Oftentimes, the cyber-criminals wire stolen money to an applicant's credit card, ask him or her to purchase expensive goods and send them, usually to Eastern Europe, where the scammers sell them. Ultimately, the victim receives neither a commissions payment nor, of course, an actual job.

Although this kind of subversive economic activity is notoriously difficult to track, federal officials have made more traction in recent years and now estimate the total number of online mule operations to be in the hundreds. According to, a leading scam tracker, the number has skyrocketed since the onset of the economic recession, jumping from 34 in December 2007 to nearly 600 in December 2009. More often than not, they target American Web users and do a good job of feigning legitimacy. One such scheme, operated by 'Advanta Transportation Network LLC,' used almost the exact same language on their site as that which appears on a real Japanese shipping company's, and claimed to have branch offices in major cities throughout the world.

Although law enforcement officials are aware of individual operators, they choose not to shut them down one by one, since many separate sites usually fall under the criminal umbrella of a larger underground organization. Experts, then, devote more of their resources and energy to gathering information from separate scams that can help them track down the cabal of masterminds behind the larger network. A slowly recovering job market, of course, only provides scam operators with a larger pool of unemployed victims to prey upon, and makes counteractive law enforcement efforts that much more difficult. So until the economy recovers or federal agencies manage to wrangle the cyber-criminals behind these schemes, the only thing we can do is avoid feeding the monster. Times may be lean, but caution is still paramount. [From: WSJ]

Tags: cybercrime, cybercriminals, economy, jobless, mule operation, MuleOperation, scam, Scams, security, top, unemployment