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How Students Can Spot Money Laundering Scams (And What They Can Do When They See Them…)

16 Apr 2013

There has been a lot in the news recently about how students are being targeted by money laundering scams and being duped into becoming ‘Money Mules’ for criminals.

We’ve been targeted by a number of these scams ourselves over the years, so we have a wealth of experience in catching these jobs before they get a chance to go live.

So, we thought we’d let you know about some of the ways we deal with these scams at e4s, how you can spot them yourselves, and what you can do to help report anything suspicious that you might see or have been unwittingly involved in.

How e4s Deals With Money Laundering Scams

We have a number of systems in place at e4s to try to ensure that NO scam jobs make it live onto our website, not just money laundering scams in particular. We vet ALL employers before allowing them to post job vacancies on E4S, because we want to protect students from ever falling prey to any scams at all.

We can’t go into too many details about how our systems work unfortunately, simply because giving away too many of our “safety net” secrets would actually play into the hands of the scammers and make it easier for them to circumvent our security systems.

But, we really want to put our students’ minds at rest that we do all that we possibly can to make sure that you never even get the chance to apply for any money laundering scams or other dodgy and fraudulent jobs.

We’ll show you a few of the money laundering scam job adverts which we pulled before they ever hit the system – and, hopefully, you’ll build up a picture of how you can spot these scams that you might stumble across on other websites.

What Are Money Laundering Scam Jobs?

Money laundering scam jobs are a fraudulent way for criminals to move stolen or “black” money around the banking system and thereby “clean” it to make it legitimate. The stolen money will often be drained from a compromised bank account and needs to be shifted through the conduit of a legitimate account to lessen suspicion and make it harder to trace back to the original criminals.

They often enlist the help of unsuspecting innocent parties, dubbed ‘Money Mules’ to help them achieve their aims.

For example, someone based overseas might need to route stolen money through the United Kingdom. They need someone with a UK bank account to receive the money and redirect it to a different account abroad. They are more than willing to pay a ‘fee’ to anyone they can find who will carry out such transactions, because the money is effectively ‘clean’ by the time it reaches the final destination bank account.

So, money laundering job adverts might ask for “payment agents” or something similar to receive payments to their account, keep a “fee” or “commission” for themselves and forward the balance on to a different account, most often overseas via a wire transfer payment.

These criminals often prey on students and job hunters who may be short of money hoping they won’t release what they are getting into. And they obviously are never blatant enough to ask for ‘money launderers’, so they dress the whole operation up as if the transfer of funds is part of the job description of a legitimate business operation.

But, it’s very important to realise that ignorance is not a plea in these circumstances. If students ever fall for these scams and allow their bank account to be used for such purposes – even if they are completely ignorant of the fact that it’s an illegal activity – then they could face up to ten years in prison. Even if a custodial sentence is not applied, then it is still likely that the mule’s bank accounts will be frozen and that it will be difficult for them to open new accounts in the future.

And the ‘innocent’ person receiving the money and sending it onwards is almost always the easiest link in the chain for the police to catch. The criminals know that and use it as a way to make it more difficult for the authorities to trace anything back to themselves.

Research suggests that 1 in 6 adults in the UK has received the offer of a scam job offer such as “money mule” operations, so it is a problem that everyone should be aware of.

What Are The Warning Signs Of A Money Laundering Scam?

There is often no single one thing you can put your finger on to say 100%: “This is a money laundering scam!”

Rather, it tends to be a few things that just don’t add up, which, when taken together just throw up all of the red warning signs. So, we are careful to point out here that some genuine employers might fall into one or more of the following categories without actually being a scam.

And to make things even more difficult for us all, sometimes the scammers even mimic the look of a genuine business and its branding design to try to trick people into thinking they are legitimate. They may even register an ever-so-slightly different web address to a respected name in order to try to pass themselves off as ‘good guys.’

But here are a few signals which should make you think twice about job adverts you might see advertised on the internet or in newspapers etc:

  • You research the company but there’s no information on them anywhere
  • The job advert requests your bank details
  • The job says it requires no specialist knowledge
  • There is an unrealistically high pay rate for the job type being advertised – if it looks too good to be true then it could well be too good to be true…
  • Processing payments is mentioned in the advert – but such a task doesn’t seem related to the job description
  • You receive a suspicious job advert, unsolicited, to your email inbox or through the letterbox
  • The job advert doesn’t seem interested in knowing anything about why you might be good for the role they are advertising
  • They have no website or social media presence
  • There are odd spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in the job advert
  • The job advert just leaves an overall bad impression
  • Words and phrases like “UK payment representative”, “Shipping Manager”, “Finance Manager” or “UK payment agent” are mentioned but don’t seem relevant
  • The job advert explicitly instructs that you shouldn’t give details of the payment to your bank or authorities such as the police


“If it looks like a scam, walks like a scam and sounds like a scam…then it probably is a scam!”


Money Laundering Scams: The Ones That Didn’t Get Away!

To help you spot the sort of thing we are talking about, here are few screenshots of dodgy-looking jobs that never made it live onto the e4s website:

Okay….no mention of money of money payments in this one – but we should at least be feeling nervous about applying for a job where “any” qualification is good enough for a position which takes “little out of your time” yet pays “any amount in a month, plus benefits.”

This one is much more blatant. They specifically ask for payments to be routed via your bank account and tell you that you can deduct a 10% commission. And, it would seem we’ve already satisfied their application requirements before we’ve even applied!

To add to the dodginess of this particular one, we received an identical job posting at the same time but from a different “fabrics” company.

This one appeals to our softer side and takes the charitable approach. Couldn’t help themselves from drawing attention to the methods of payment using CAPITAL LETTERS though, could they? Again, we are supposed to receive the money to our account, take a commission and the make a wire payment to another bank account with the balance.

Another one that is pretty graphic about the nature of re-routing money. Again, a 10% commission (and some extra money incentives – although we can’t work out exactly how much for some reason…)

A work from home job that you need to commute to?? Anybody who has an interest in this Payment Officer/Account Officer role who can “contant” by email seems to be assured of landing this job…

As you can see, some of these scams are more blatent and obvious than others, but we hope you get our point!

What To Do If You Suspect A Money Laundering Scam

If you see a job advert on the internet that you think looks suspicious then you should report your suspicions to the crime charity Crimestoppers so that they can investigate further. You can get in touch with them anonymously if you wish. Find their contact details on the Crimestoppers website.

If you think you may already have been unwittingly involved in a money laundering scam yourself, then you should also contact your bank and the police immediately to let them know.

Remember! Never give your bank details away to someone that you don’t know and trust!

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