Fraudulent Automated Clearing House (ACH) Transfers Connected to Malware and Work-at-Home Scams

11/3/2009 FBI Press Release:

As part of a continuing effort to identify the latest cyber crime trends and warn the public, the FBI today released the following information:

Within the last several months, the FBI has seen a significant increase in fraud involving the exploitation of valid online banking credentials belonging to small and medium businesses, municipal governments, and school districts. In a typical scenario, the targeted entity receives a “spear phishing” e-mail which either contains an infected attachment, or directs the recipient to an infected website. Once the recipient opens the attachment or visits the website, malware is installed on their computer. The malware contains a key logger which will harvest each recipient’s business or corporate bank account login information. Shortly thereafter, the perpetrator either creates another user account with the stolen login information or directly initiates funds transfers by masquerading as the legitimate user. These transfers have occurred as both traditional wire transfers and as ACH transfers.

Further reporting has shown that the transfers are directed to the bank accounts of willing or unwitting individuals within the United States. Most of these individuals have been recruited via work-at-home advertisements, or have been contacted after placing resumes on well-known job search websites. These persons are often hired to “process payments,” or “transfer funds.” They are told they will receive wire transfers into their bank accounts. Shortly after funds are received, they are directed to immediately forward most of the money overseas via wire transfer services such as Western Union and Moneygram.

Customers who use online banking services are advised to contact their financial institution to ensure they are employing all the appropriate security and fraud prevention services their institution offers.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has made information on banking securely online available at: http://www.us-cert.gov/reading_room/Banking_Securely_Online07102006.pdf

Protecting your computer against malicious software is an ongoing activity and, at minimum, all computer systems need to be regularly patched, have up-to-date anti-virus software, and have a personal firewall installed. Further information is available at: http://www.us-cert.gov/nav/nt01/

If you have experienced unauthorized funds transfers from your bank accounts, or if you have been recruited via a work-at-home opportunity to receive transfers and forward money overseas, please notify the Internet Crime Complaint Center by filing a complaint at: http://www.ic3.gov.

For a detailed analysis of this scam please visit http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/091103-1.aspx

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FBI: Don’t be Fooled by Work-at-Home Scams

2/4/2009 F.B.I. Press Release:

The FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) continue to receive numerous complaints from individuals who have fallen victim to work-at-home scams and remind consumers to be vigilant when seeking employment online.

These work-at-home schemes are designed by criminals to gain the trust of job seekers in order to take advantage of working relationships to further illegal activity. Most victims do not even realize they are engaging in criminal behavior until it is too late.

In many of the reported scams, victims are often hired to “process payments,” “transfer funds,” or “reship products.” However, these scams exploit unwitting employees by having them cash fraudulent checks, transfer illegally obtained funds for the criminals, or receive stolen merchandise and ship it to the criminals.

Other scams entice victims to sign up to be a “mystery shopper,” receiving fraudulent checks with instructions to cash the checks and wire the funds to “test” a company’s services. Victims are told they will be compensated with a portion of the merchandise or funds.

Job scams also often provide criminals the opportunity to commit identity theft when victims provide their personal information, sometimes even bank account information, to their potential “employer.” The criminal/employer can then use the victim’s information to open credit cards, post on-line auctions, register websites, etc., in the victim’s name to commit additional crimes.

“Don’t get duped by these criminals offering easy money. Remain skeptical of unsolicited job offers that sound too good to be true and report any scams you might encounter,” said Richard Kolko, FBI National Press Office.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, please go to the FBI website and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI’s New E-Scams and Warnings webpage at www.fbi.gov or www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.

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The question you should ALWAYS ask (no matter what)

Enron proved this. The current mortgage crisis proved this. And the following question is one we recommend you ALWAYS keep in mind as you develop your judgement in any area of interest to you.

It came to us through our feedback form:

Q: How do I know you aren’t a scam.

Our Answer:

A: The REAL answer to that question is unless YOU know enough about a particular subject area you can’t know because you can’t really tell if a person is B.S.ing you.

My best advice would be do NOT pull out your credit card for anything until you’ve absorbed enough free information to the point where you feel like you have developed your own judgment in a subject
area.

Even “seals of approval” can be faked and I’ve seen many authoritative non-government resources get things wrong (the federal government sites typically get things RIGHT when it comes to what’s a work at home scam or telecommuting scam).

There are some technical ways to check things out using tools like http://www.domaintools.com
http://www.robtex.com, http://www.copyscape.com and many others.

You can see an example of how to use these tools here:

http://www.workathometruth.com/blog/2008/09/15/sixfigureyearly-not-recommended/
http://www.workathometruth.com/blog/2008/10/14/tip-for-avoiding-money-laundering-schemes/

Certainly for specific AREAS of scams to check if something IS a scam you can use sites like

which tend to be extremely accurate. And if THOSE sites reference another site as a resource that’s a good sign, although it’s rare for a site to get that status.

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