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.