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May 14, 2010 / Toby Dayton

FBI Crack Down On Cyber Mules Getting No Help From Indeed, Simplyhired, Or Huffington Post

The Wall Street Journal ran an article this week highlighting the efforts of the FBI to crack down on ‘Cyber Mules,’ people who knowingly or unknowingly participate in money laundering schemes. Cyber mules, or money mules as they are sometimes called, are recruited through classified ads posted on job boards such as Monster.com and are asked to receive and then pass along funds deposited in their bank accounts. The job scam ads pollute most of the traditional pay-to-post job boards on the web and are a massive scourge in the recruitment advertising industry. As the Journal article states,

“Not all mules realize they are part of a criminal enterprise. Criminals often advertise for logistics positions on job-listing Web sites like Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com to appear legitimate. While the listing companies work to ferret out criminal postings, they can’t catch them all, and some desperate job seekers apply for these positions.”

I will fully admit up front that my interest in exposing this issue is twofold. First and foremost, we at JobDig and LinkUp are passionate about serving job seekers and delivering to them services and information that best serve their interests. Awareness about cyber mules and scam listings on job boards needs to be raised dramatically, and anything that anyone in our space and beyond can do to further that goal helps. Secondly, I have an interest in promoting LinkUp, a far better alternative to job boards and job aggregators like Indeed and Simplyhired that pull all the job boards into a single site.

There are a number of significant reasons why LinkUp is a better job search engine than any other jobs site on the web, but one of the biggest is that we have eliminated cyber mule ads along with every other kind of work-at-home scam and garbage listing that pollute pay-to-post job boards and aggregator sites that pool pay-to-post listings from other job boards. LinkUp is a job search engine that indexes jobs that are only found on company websites, so the listings found on LinkUp are always certain to be real jobs from real companies. That may make perfect sense to many reading this, but it’s not a concept that everyone clearly understands right away so it’s worth repeating. LinkUp lists jobs from only one source – the company’s corporate career portal on their company website. And because we do not allow anyone to post jobs directly onto our site, and because we don’t list jobs from other job boards like Indeed and Simplyhired do, LinkUp does not contain scam jobs. Period.

In any event, I’ve tried to shed light through posts in the past on the issue of cyber mules and highlight some of the outstanding work that journalists like Brian Krebs at the Washington Post have done in exposing this criminal activity. Unfortunately, it increasingly appears to be a losing battle, thanks in no small part to job aggregator sites like Indeed and Simplyhired that aggregate postings from job boards and then distribute them on media sites throughout the web.

I was reading Huffington Post last week and was disheartened to see that not only had they integrated jobs from Simplyhired into their site, but that the first job on the top of the list after clicking on ‘Search Jobs’ on the homepage was a money mule ad. THE FIRST ONE. At the top of the list.

Even worse, it was one of the most blatant, obvious scam ads I had ever seen in 10 years. The ad copy read, “We are searching for representatives who can help us establish a medium of getting our funds from our customers in Europe / Australia / United Kingdom / United States of America as well as making payments through these representatives to us. So I want to know if you will like to work from home and get paid. This position will in no way affect your present job as well.”

So as much as Patrick Carney, acting chief of the FBI’s Cyber Criminal Division, believes that these scam ads cannot possibly be regarded as legitimate jobs (in the WSJ article, he states, “I find it difficult to believe there are that many people who believe it’s a legitimate job,”), he certainly isn’t getting any help from Simplyhired or The Huffington Post.

4 Comments

  1. Steven Rothberg CollegeRecruiter.com / May 15 2010 6:05 pm

    In fairness to the other aggregators, they receive the vast majority of their jobs from job board such as Careerbuilder so if crap is posted to Careerbuilder, then the same crap will find its way to SimplyHired, Indeed, and their partners such as the Huffington Post. But even if that happens, both SimplyHired and Indeed have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready, willing, and able to remove the crap as soon as they’re notified about it.

    Some may say they shouldn’t allow the posts onto their sites at all but that’s simply not feasible for an aggregator. I doubt that LinkUp reviews all postings from the corporate sites that it scrapes to ensure that they’re accurate and still available any more than SimplyHired or Indeed review the postings they receive from the Careerbuilders of the world.

  2. Toby Dayton / May 15 2010 11:32 pm

    Steven,

    I have no idea what ‘fairness’ you are referring to in your comment. Scam ads, especially ones as egregious as money mule ads, are a massive problem in the employment classifieds industry, and companies that participate in furthering their exposure need to be held accountable. Companies like Indeed and Simplyhired that aggregate content from other job boards must assume responsibility for the quality of the content they are republishing, as should the media companies and publishers who partner with them.

    I have no tolerance, nor should anyone else in the industry, for the flawed reasoning that aggregators bear no responsibility simply because “they receive the vast majority of their jobs from job board such as Careerbuilder so if crap is posted to Careerbuilder, then the same crap will find its way to SimplyHired, Indeed, and their partners such as the Huffington Post.” That ‘crap’ is precisely the flaw in the service delivery model of both Indeed and Simplyhired that I am pointing out. It is a flaw that not only stands as a massive disservice to job seekers, it aids and abets criminal activity.

    I also have no idea what you are referring to when you state that, “both SimplyHired and Indeed have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready, willing, and able to remove the crap as soon as they’re notified about it.” What evidence do you have that they have taken any steps to eliminate scam jobs from their sites? Furthermore, whatever steps they might claim to have taken were clearly inadequate, as evidenced by the job I highlighted in my post (not to mention the thousands of other examples so pervasive on Indeed and Simplyhired).

    Even worse is your willingness to grant Indeed and Simplyhired some sort of amnesty for only addressing the problem “when they’re notified about about it.” First of all, there can be no doubt about Indeed’s and Simplyhired’s awareness of scam ads – they remain one of the biggest issues in the industry. They have been notified – repeatedly. And despite this complete and thorough understanding of the issue, they have done little to nothing about it, at least as far as I can tell. But even more importantly, companies should not be allowed to wait until ‘notified’ (by customers, users, competitors, or anyone else) to rectify unscrupulous or unethical behavior.

    Pay-to-post job boards allow criminals to post money mule or cyber mule ads on their site. These same job boards then buy traffic from aggregators such as Indeed and Simplyhired and pay them by the click as job seekers click on classified ads, both legitimate and illegitimate. Both the job boards and the aggregators benefit monetarily from these scam ads, and neither party has elected to eliminate the problem, choosing instead to take the cash and spout gibberish about their innocence and inability to solve the problem.

    You could not possibly be more wrong in your statement that eliminating the problem isn’t feasible for an aggregator. It is. There isn’t any doubt in the world that a small team of decent developers could eliminate the vast majority of scam ads in very short order. It might require some moderate level of thought, skill, and dedication, but it clearly can be solved. And yet the problem persists because neither side cares to walk away from the money these ads bring in. The job boards and Indeed and Simplyhired have very deliberately made a choice to place revenue above the interests of their users and that’s what I am articulating in my post. Your excusing them simply perpetuates the problem.

  3. Chris Walker / May 17 2010 7:48 am

    Toby–Thanks for lifting the rock. Folks should read this piece, http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/jobscamreportpt1.html, by Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum. It’s a chilling account that demonstrates the massiveness of the problem.

    Every job seeker should also read this http://www.rileyguide.com/realjob.html, Margaret Riley Dikel’s step by step instructions on how to recognize the crap that the recruitment industry seems unwilling to clean up.

    Chris

  4. Nick Corcodilos / May 17 2010 8:24 am

    @SteveN Rothberg: “Some may say they shouldn’t allow the posts onto their sites at all but that’s simply not feasible for an aggregator.”

    Well, you absolutely crack me up. Let’s not blame the storekeeper that sells cigarettes and booze to underaged customers… it’s not his fault those kids displayed fraudulent ID.

    Steve, the problem is that the industry is built on an inherently corrupt model. You can’t shovel sh*t by the truckload and complain it’s not your fault that some sh*t got on someone’s shirt. The excuses and the rationalizations are just stunning. Any job board that posts that crap — and the dungheaps where it “sources” it — should be fined daily for every occurrence.

    If it isn’t “feasible” for aggregators to clean the stream of crap they publish, then they should just shut the door — or the feds should shut them down.

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