Job board or major fraud?

May 19 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

You have doubtless heard of the Nigerian money laundering scam that has been doing the rounds of the Internet for years. But in an ingenious new twist in the development of online fraud, popular jobs boards in the USA such as Monster and HotJobs have been targeted by organised criminals to ‘recruit’ people to act as unwitting money launderers.

The ‘job hunters’ thought they were processing payments for software sales. Actually they were playing a pivotal role in organised international credit card fraud, leaving some with thousands of dollars in debts and facing possible criminal liability.

One scam involved a Ukranian software company, touting for payment processing agents on The company – which had a credible website - told credulous job seekers to set up Pay Pal accounts (an online payment service) so that customers without credit cards or U.S. bank accounts could purchase software.

The ‘sales agents’ were promised they would be able to keep a percentage of the funds they processed. Money would then appear in the PayPal accounts and the agents would forward it out of the country to the waiting criminal gang.

One unwitting victim of the scam, 25-year old Tina Haloulos, who had left her full-time job to study for law school entrance exams, told the New York Times that she only discovered what was really going on when PayPal suspended her accounts over fraudulent transactions and landed her with a bill for a $2,000.

Her masterful comment to the New York Times: “I feel like an idiot."

But the scam has nevertheless left the job sites scrabbling to defend their security and screening procedures, particularly since Monster states in its terms of business that it is not responsible for any damages incurred through employment fraud.

"We have a team of employees dedicated to screening and monitoring the postings to ensure their legitimacy," said Monster’s Kevin Mullins. "If there's any concern whatsoever about a posting, we take it off the site."

Mullins added that Monster uses a combination of human review and searching for ‘suspect’ keywords in job postings to sniff out fraudulent activity – hardly a method that sounds like an exact science.

And with around 11,000 jobs posted on Monster each day (around one million each quarter) it must be inevitable that a considerable number of fraudsters could slip through the net.

Juliana Deeks, an analyst with Jupiter Research, told the New York Times that job boards should be worried because even a small number of scams could seriously damage their reputations.

"They should be paranoid about this, for the potential loss of trust. These companies are relatively new brands, and while they're strong brands, they're absolutely vulnerable when it comes to things like this."