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Reshipping Fraud - Parcel Mule Scams

Outline
Jobs offered online or via email claim that participants can earn money by receiving items and resending them to specified addresses.

Parcels

© Depositphotos.com/ Roman Milert



Brief Analysis
The supposed jobs are reshipping scams designed to trick victims into receiving and resending items bought with stolen payment cards.

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Example

Subject: Job opening : id / M1DUR3D5253842...

Hello !

Please, have glance at the following proposal.

Picknship incorporated has opened the position of a delivery employee. In the event you have read this letter, that means the online recruiting department administrators have seen your resume online, because our recruitment department is looking for job applicants on the web.

Picknship incorporated inc is a European company which is located in Poland (Warsaw). This firm provides retail trade and forwarding of numerous products (mostly modern electronics equipment) and selling it to European clients. We have been quite prosperous in this sphere since 2005.
 
Your obligations will consist of receiving items and sending them off via United States Postal Service and numerous other services.
You do not have to spend anything from your pocket. The salary rate is $1,500 monthly minimal amount and it is based upon every task rate with unlimited peak.

The demanded qualification will be the following:
- aged 18 years old minimum
- be situated at indicated address on a regular basis
- a computer equipped with web availability
- possess daytime contact dial number.

You do not need to have any optional room for storing the goods.

This letter will be regarded as an official job invitation and it does not deal with any strange activities.

In the event you are interested, do not hesitate to write us via email.


Detailed Analysis


The job might look like a great opportunity. Especially if you are unemployed. According to the job descriptions, which typically arrive via email or in response to a job profile posted online, all job applicants need do to earn a generous wage is receive items, repackage them, and send them off to specified addresses.

However, the supposed job is in fact a reshipping scam designed to trick users into receiving the proceeds of crime. What the hapless worker will actually be doing is accepting goods bought via fraudulent transactions and sending them back to the criminals responsible for the scam.

Why? Because, if a criminal steals your credit card details and uses them to buy various items, he has to have the items delivered somewhere. He can't just have them delivered to him directly, because that could pinpoint his location to investigators and result in his arrest.

So, instead, the criminal needs to find a parcel mule to accept the fraudulently procured items on his behalf. When police follow the trail, they will arrive at the door of the mule, not the real offender. Meanwhile, the criminal has had his goods shipped to him and is able to keep them for himself or, more likely, sell them for cash.

Victims can find themselves trapped inside the scam and at a loss as to how to get out.  After a time, they may realize that they are involved in a scam. But, by then, they may be reticent to contact authorities out of fear of being charged with criminal activities.   And their criminal "bosses" may threaten violence and retaliation to victims who try to extricate themselves.

A report in the Las Vegas Sun describes the plight of one such victim:
By the time Scott Wilson realized how badly he'd been suckered, there was already a warrant out for his arrest and boxes of stolen Bibles piling up in his guest bedroom.

Wilson had fallen victim to a reshipping scam, an Internet confidence crime authorities say costs retailers more than a half-billion dollars annually. Hired to send and receive packages, the 38-year-old Las Vegas father had unwittingly become a fence for stolen merchandise; his townhouse a depot of purloined goods.
It would take Wilson weeks to realize he'd been made a fool.
The job seemed legitimate, and so easy. Wilson would receive numerous small parcels in the mail. He would inventory the parcels and gather them into bigger boxes, cardboard behemoths he scoured from behind fast-food restaurants. Wilson would then ship the big boxes to someone else, whomever his bosses instructed.

Now he's a crime victim who's afraid of calling the cops because he's also a criminal dodging police.

To make matters worse, the criminals may "pay" their mules with fake or stolen cheques or funds transferred from compromised accounts. They may instruct workers to deduct their wages and wire a remaining amount via a money transfer service such as Western Union. Thus, workers may be roped into laundering money as well as receiving stolen goods.

And mules are sometimes tricked into paying postage and other costs out of their own pockets, with a false promise that they will be later reimbursed.

In a variation of the tactic, criminals may find new and willing victims via online dating scams.

Be wary of any work-at-home job that requires you to receive various goods and reship them elsewhere.  Any such request should be treated as suspect.  If you have already become embroiled in a parcel mule scam, you need to extricate yourself immediately.  The best course of action is to contact police and explain the situation. Better than waiting for the police to arrive on your doorstep.

The RSA FraudAction Research Lab has published an in-depth analysis of one reshipping scam operation that makes for interesting reading.

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Last updated: September 13, 2013
First published: September 13, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
Online scam turns honest citizens into fences for stolen goods
Payment Transfer Job Scam Emails - Laundering Scams
Jennifer's Story - Dating and Money Laundering Scam
Deep Inside a Reshipping Scam: Mules Victimized by 'Air Parcel Express'