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Research Project Money Mule Scam

Email, supposedly from a freelance scientific researcher, offers the recipient part time work processing cheques and money orders in return for a percentage of the processed fees (Full commentary below).

False - Money Laundering Scam

Example:(Submitted, May 2008)
Subject: Part Time Work

Good tidings to you as you read. My name is Paul Greeley. I am a freelance researcher for Tripod Researches Inc.I would be very interested in offering you a job in which you can earn alot.I just resigned my job as a research scientist for (Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland )(ARINI) but I still work as a freelance consultant for the institute which gives me very much time to do my own work which is basically being a freelance researcher who can be employed by research institutes to do research projects anywhere in the world.I just came about your email address and your brief profile so i decided to make contact with you.

Presently,I have just been granted a funding to head a research project in the tropical regions of West Africa and other tropical regions regarding rare and vulnerable plant species and this would be commencing very soon, However the fundings are by my American counterparts that sent me the bunch of payments mostly in US based money orders. Getting an accountant in the states or opening an account would have been my best choice but I have a deadline to meet and taking any of those choices would cost me time and a whole lot of other requirements I am not ready to deal with, as I would be traveling a lot in the meantime. So presently, assuming you would be able to deal with cash, i would be willing to employ you on contract basis to be my payment representative in the united states, this way payments can issued out to you, you will then cash them easily, withdraw 10% of the total sum on these money orders/checks as your commission and then send the rest back to me through Western Union wire transfer. These payments are in Money Orders or Checks and they would be written out to you in your name and sent to you via courier, so all you need do is process the payments, then deduct your percentage and wire the rest back. 10% from each operation! For instance: you receive 2000 US-D via checks or money orders on our behalf.

You will cash the payments and keep 200 US-D (10% from USD2000) for yourself! At the beginning your commission will equal 10%, though later it will increase up to 15%! You do not need any office because you will work as an independent contractor right from your home or office. Your job is absolutely legal(100%). You can earn up to USD2000-3000 monthly depending on time you will spend on this job. You do not need any capital to start. This is absolutely legal, that's why you have to fill a contract! I would be glad if you accept my proposal and I intend to commence on this as soon as you are ready. If you are interested, email me back so we can make concluding arrangements. All responses should be sent to my private email;
[email protected] Please note when replying fill the format below:
To get started, I will need the following (6) details.
B. Your Address where the Payments should be sent to via courier. city state and zipcode
C. Telephone numbers (Cell phone and home phone.)
D. Age
E. Sex
F. Occupation

Thanks for your anticipated action. And I hope to hear back from you. Dr Paul Greeley.
Tripod Research Institute Inc.
120B Newport Street,
London, SW1Y 6EQ, UK.

Often, from the criminal's point of view, compromising a bank account via a phishing scam, or procuring fake or stolen credit cards, cheques or money orders is only one part of the process. To gain the full benefit of their criminal activities, scammers often have to "launder" the proceeds of fraud.


Laundered Money
Bogus emails ostensibly offering part time work try to fool recipients into participating in criminal money-laundering schemes
To avoid detection, they will often attempt to "convert" the stolen proceeds into untraceable cash via an intermediary who has been tricked or coerced into performing such laundering duties.

Although often guilty of nothing more than gullibility, these hapless "money mules" may ultimately find themselves in serious trouble with the law because the money trail will lead directly to their door. They may be blissfully unaware of the fact that they are participating in criminal activities and aiding and abetting fraudsters. To make matters worse, they might themselves become the victims of fraud. The criminals running such operations will often request a large amount of sensitive personal information from their mule in the form of fake "job contracts" and other supposedly legal work-related documents. Over time, the scammers may collect enough information to compromise the financial accounts of their victims directly or steal their identity.

One method that scammers use to procure workers is to spam out thousands of unsolicited "job offer" emails like the one included above. Typically, these emails will claim that the recipient can gain well-paid part time work by "processing" funds sent to them by "clients" or "customers". All the workers need do to earn their wages is to accept money sent to them via a bank account, cheques or money orders, deduct a percentage to keep for themselves, and then wire the remainder back to their "employers" via an International money transfer service. Thus, the mule performs all the risky business of processing the stolen funds. Once each of these transactions is complete, the criminal responsible ends up with the bulk of the stolen funds in the form of cash that cannot be traced to him. When the police finally catch up with the poor patsy processing the funds, the criminal can simply disappear, cash in hand.

The particular example included here deals in money orders and cheques which are almost sure to be stolen or counterfeit. However, a great many variations of the same basic "job offer" scam are continually distributed via email. I receive dozens of such messages every week along with emails from people all over the world that have been caught out by such scams. Some instruct victims to process cheques or funds transfers via their bank accounts or via online payment services such as PayPal. Others, such as the example above, ask victims to cash cheques or money orders at a bank or post office. All instruct would-be workers to deduct their remuneration directly from the funds they are processing at a specified percentage rate and wire the remainder as cash back to the "employee".

Thankfully, money mule scam messages are not at all hard to recognize: Forewarned with the above information, most recipients should be able to avoid becoming involved in such money laundering scams. By warning other Internet users about these bogus job offers, you can help break the process by which online scammers conduct their nefarious activities.

Last updated: 26th May 2008
First published: 26th May 2008

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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