Fraudsters are recruiting unsuspecting people, often with the promise of making money, receiving a job, or some other personal benefit, to receive illicit funds from government programs, such as disaster relief payments from the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and unemployment insurance payments from a state's unemployment insurance program. The victims are frequently instructed to open an account at a financial institution (or to provide their current account information) to receive funds. Upon receipt of the funds through ACH, the victims are instructed to transfer the funds elsewhere and to keep a small portion for themselves.
Other fraudsters may approach their victims on social media, where they portray themselves as being wealthy (e.g., posing in photos with large amounts of cash, fancy cars, and other extravagant items). They may also approach their victims in person (e.g., on a college campus or at a homeless shelter) or on websites like Craigslist or LinkedIn.
How recruitment scams work:
- The fraudster gains the victim’s admiration and trust.
- The fraudster gains access to the victim’s personal bank account.
- The fraudster asks the victim to open a bank account (or to provide existing account information) and requests ways to access it, such as by sharing online banking credentials and debit card/PIN numbers.
- Fraudulent money is moved through the account.
- Fraudulent funds are then deposited into the account. The perpetrator may claim the funds are an advance, a loan, an inheritance, payroll or for other legitimate-sounding purposes. They may issue a check, have the funds wired in or deposited by way of ACH. After the funds are deposited, the perpetrator will then request all or part of the funds be returned to them in cash, check or via an electronic transfer.
- When the fraud is discovered, the fraudster is usually gone and the victim is held responsible for any financial loss as the deposits and withdrawals were authorized.
How to avoid recruitment scams:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never agree to open an account or use your own account for someone you don’t know, trust, or have not met in person.
- Do not share your personal or financial information with anyone unless you initiated the contact and know that the contact is legitimate.
- If you are unsure whether a check is fraudulent, do not deposit it into your account. While a financial institution may initially accept the check, there is no guarantee that the funds are good. It can take days, or even weeks, for a check to come back as fraudulent. Do not use those funds unless you are confident the check is legitimate. You are responsible for the checks you deposit.
- Talk with your family about scams like these. If you have teenagers, be aware of what they are doing online, and encourage them to speak to you about any unusual offers they receive from strangers.
- Refuse requests to send money to someone you do not know or have not known for a long time.
- Don’t accept a job that asks you to transfer money using your own bank account.