Thursday, September 04, 2008

Work at Home . . . for a Criminal?

How do you tell if a "Work at Home" invitation is a scam? Here's a clue: It comes in your email. In today's Blog, I thought I would take a look at the various "Work at Home" plans that have been arriving in the UAB Spam Data Mine this week. Some days we have a better chance than others to get a job online, but recently we've been offered as many as 100 new jobs per day!

There are clearly many questions about "Work at Home". According to a Better Business Bureau report released last month, Work at Home companies were the #5 most common inquiry they received in 2007. Slightly behind Roofing Contractors and slightly ahead of Auto Dealers.

We'll start with scammers who just con you out of your money, and then move on to the ones who want YOU to be a criminal with them!

A special reminder to new college students: It doesn't have to be online to be a scam! Business opportunities on telephone poles, sidewalks, and taped on walls around campus can be scams too!

Rebate Processor

The primary Work-at-Home spam we're receiving currently is for "Rebate Processors" as part of a group of scammers who use this mailing address in their emails:

8721 St. Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90069, US. Also known as "Angel Stevens Processors".

Just today we have samples that point to the websites:

The websites in the spam vary because they get shut down for spam so frequently. All of them actually forward to the same website.

Like most of these Work At Home jobs, the first step is that you have to buy some training from the scammers. In this case, it takes 7 weeks of training and multiple purchased lessons before you receive your "Certificate" to be a Rebate Processor. The only problem is that once you receive your certificate, you never get any work. Others who have been in the program say the "secret" is to buy products yourself, keeping the "referral fee" that some affiliate programs provide, and then resell the products at below the going price. If you buy a $50 product, and receive a 20% commission on the sale, you really got the book for $40. Now find a sucker on eBay who will pay you $45 for the $50 book, and you make $5 profit! Only 2,000 other suckers are trying to do the same thing.

Suckers who buy the $197 training on how to do the above will often then be offered an even better work at home job that requires taking an $8000 class on how to make websites.

Before you consider joining, you might wish to read this Rip-Off Report from one of the many people who've been scammed by these con men.

Other complaints are listed at Complaints Board.

Freelance Home Writers

Another popular recent scam is the Freelance Homewriters. This scam promises you that you can set your own income, because their exclusive members only area has a list of thousands of companies that will pay you to write short articles, blog posts, or short stories. If you are a motivated writer, you can earn as much as $4,000 per week writing these short articles. You can even get a "trial" access to their database for $2.95. The actual wording says:

For only $2.95 you will have unlimited access to the same money making tools that thousands of our other members have for 7 days. Monthly membership is only $47 dollars which is a fraction of what you will make with the Freelance Home Writers system.

After you pay your $2.95, seven days later your card gets hit for another $47 for the first monthly charge. Although the website says "The writing jobs are so simple even an 8-year-old child could do them" many victims are claiming they couldn't get any work at all.

This company also has to send their spam from many "forwarding" domains, since they are shut down for illegal spamming so quickly. Here are some they used today:

At Home Typers

You've probably seen this one as well. "Can you type 30 WPM? Then Earn a Living Typing at Home!" If you go to the website, you soon learn that the guy offering this scam can make $30,000 per month, just typing at his house!

From the numerous comments online, the people who paid their $49 to learn how to type at home don't seem nearly as happy as the people on this scammer's website.

An interesting tid-bit regarding the numerous domains which "forward" to these scams. Each of the domain owners is a spammer who gets money for referring you to join the service. So, for instance, At Home Typers is an affiliate program managed by "". If the spammer manages to get one person to join this program, they receive $20. So, of the $49 that you spend to join At Home Typers, FORTY PERCENT of that money is sent directly to the spammer. In reality though, it probably isn't. has the option of just keeping the spammers money at any time, as spelled out in their Terms of Service:

YOUR SERVICE WILL BE TERMINATED IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT WARNING SHOULD YOU USE OUR SYSTEM AS PART OF ANY BULK EMAIL CAMPAIGN. You may also be subject to fines and legal actions as a result of your bulk email promotion..

This gives them plausible deniability. They can say to the CAN-SPAM folks "oh really? someone is sending spam? They sure didn't get that idea from us!" and terminate the spammers account, pocketing their commissions. The only people POSSIBLY really making that much money from AtHomeTypers are the spammers who earn $20 for each sucker they deliver. Hmmm... could the secret to stopping AtHomeTypers be quickly reporting every spammer to both them and the FTC???

SEO Fraud - Search Engine Optimization Fraud

Why do these typing scams say "an 8-year-old" could write well enough to do them? Because what you are being paid to type is sometimes called "Form Spam" or "Blog Spam" or "Guestbook Spam". Have you ever been to a website where someone signed the guest book, "Viagra Cialis Cheap Drugs Click Here!"? If people DO click there, and then buy the drugs, the owner of the website thus advertised is going to get paid by an illegal pills site. If you type an ad somewhere that gets that webmaster lots of money, he might pay you to type the ads. Porn sites will also pay to have you write stories or post blog articles, and they don't care if the story is "Mary had a little hot sex lamb, whose hot sex fleece was hot sex as white as hot sex!" If they have enough "stories" like that on their web page, they will go up higher in the search engine rankings, such as Google, for the term "hot sex". If they cover their website with pornographic ads, and more people come to their site because of your stories, they get paid more by their advertisers.

This is called Search Engine Optimization Fraud, and while it might get the site banned by Google, its currently not against the law. *THIS* is what a "work at home typer" is getting paid to do. SEO Fraud. Don't be tempted. Even if some people get paid for it, the odds of YOU making $30,000 a month typing at home are almost exactly Zero.

All of the jobs above this line are over-promising and under-delivering according to many published accounts around the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on spotting fake "Business Opportunities" on their website at: You can learn more about a wide range of this type of business who had charges filed against them in 2006 in Project Fal$e Hope$ which charged more than 100 companies with deceptive "work at home" or other business opportunities.

For a more light-hearted approach, you might enjoy the FTC's production of Easy Money is a Fairy Tale.

And now, on to the real criminals . . .

Money Laundering

When job offers mention "foreign currency transactions", or "financial services", they are often looking for people to be what we call a "Money Mule". The job of a Money Mule is to receive stolen funds into your personal checking account, and then wire the money overseas, keeping a small portion as your commission. The part they often forget to mention in the job ads is that the money is stolen. If you are involved in a Work At Home job that involves making wire transfers to European countries, you really need to contact law enforcement. You have been tricked into working for a criminal enterprise!

The main offer we're currently receiving in this category is from WorldWide Offshore Integrated Systems.

They promise that I'll earn $2500 every two weeks working at home, and all I need is the ability to use Word and Excel and Excellent Communications Skills. My job will be to "help clients understand how to save money on foreign currency transactions, and develop new business through referrals". Email Katrin Olley at for more details.

I'm also supposed to email Katrin Olley at

Poor confused Katrin has offered us this job more than fifty times this week!

Luksus Team, headquartered in Helsinki Finland, will pay me $1200 per month, plus commission, for working three hours per day to "Administer day-to-day financial responsibilities for clients". wants to hire me.

This is actually about the fifth website that Sandra Collins has had in as many weeks. Sandra is nearly as confused as Katrin. She has offered us the job more than a dozen times this week, but strangely neither she nor Katrin send the email from their own accounts. Just today they sent their offers to me from computers in Brasil, Colombia, Turkey. Its confusing to get a job offer in Helsinki from a Swedish email address sent from a computer in Colombia. Nothing suspicious there, oh no!


In a reshipping scheme, criminals buy goods online using stolen credit cards. American companies have learned not to ship to certain European and African countries, which has really hurt their ability to receive the stolen goods. The criminals' solution? Ship the goods to someone who lives in the same place as the stolen credit card was from! That's probably why we've received more than forty job offers this week from the company below. If they are using a credit card belonging to someone in Alabama, they look up one of their "employees" in Alabama, use his delivery address, and tell the online company they are sending it as a gift. You receive the package, repack it into another box, and then send it on its way . . . to Romania, the Ukraine, Nigeria, or whatever destination the criminal has designated. As with the Money Mule schemes, if you are participating in this type of Work at Home business, you need to contact law enforcement. This is "receipt of stolen goods". If enough people come forward, we may gain the evidence we need to catch these bad guys!

Here's our top offer in this category today:

Cosco Transport Company needs me to receive packages of electronics, (digital cameras, laptops, audio) at my home, which I will then repackage and mail to another location. I'll be paid $1300 per week, but can earn an extra $30-$50 bonus every time I reship the package the same day I receive it.

Ronald Rosinski is offering that job -
He also offered me the job from -
and -
and -

Do you wonder if the email you received is related to a fraud? I highly recommend the website:

The website also provides links where you can report online crime, if you believe you are the victim of a fraud, including the Internet Crime and Complaint Center -- -- as well as the Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission.

Gary Warner
Director of Research
UAB Computer Forensics

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Trying a new setting. After turning on comments, I got about 20-30 comments per day that were all link spam. Sorry to require login, but the spam was too much.