On 18 January 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a public service announcement (PSA), in which they described a scam which is specifically targeting college students who are looking for work. While the mechanics of the scam are not new, the successful targeting of college students looking for employment warranted the FBI’s advisory.

According to the FBI, the scams being perpetrated consist of four parts.

* Scammers post online job advertisements soliciting college students for administrative positions.

* The student employee receives counterfeit checks in the mail or via e-mail and is instructed to deposit the checks into their personal checking account.

* The scammer then directs the student to withdraw the funds from their checking account and send a portion, via wire transfer, to another individual. Often, the transfer of funds is to a “vendor”, purportedly for equipment, materials, or software necessary for the job.

* Subsequently, the checks are confirmed to be fraudulent by the bank.

Exemplars of employment email scams being seen by the FBI include

“You will need some materials/software and also a time tracker to commence your training and orientation and also you need the software to get started with work. The funds for the software will be provided for you by the company via check. Make sure you use them as instructed for the software and I will refer you to the vendor you are to purchase them from, okay.”

“I have forwarded your start-up progress report to the HR Dept. and they will be facilitating your start-up funds with which you will be getting your working equipment from vendors and getting started with training.”

“Enclosed is your first check. Please cash the check, take $300 out as your pay, and send the rest to the vendor for supplies.”

Our advice for students

Unless you initiate the contact, stick to the Job Fairs for contact with companies or institutions which are unfamiliar to you. Never engage in an activity where you are receiving “funds” and then “processing funds.”

In this PSA the FBI describes the con that steals the students money and personal identifying information. A variant on this scam, is to actually have the target launder money through their bank account, acting as a mule for dirty-money laundering.  The former puts the target in an embarrassing situation which may negatively affect their bank account, their credit rating, etc., the latter will put the target in jail for money laundering.

As I discussed in my 2010 Huffington Post article, Use Horse Sense, Don’t Be a Mule

… even if you have nothing to do with the actual extraction of funds from another person’s account, by allowing your account to be used to receive and transfer such funds, you will be acting illegally.


The link to the FBI’s announcement is provided below the FBI banner.Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | Employment Scam Targeting College Students Remains Prevalent