Package mule scam turns its victim into a criminal and drains their bank account

James Tuliano

Imagine this: you've applied to hundreds of jobs, attended a dozen interviews, and received way too many rejection letters. You are upset that no one is even giving you a chance. You are completely exhausted and want to give up.

However, just as you're giving up, a miracle comes in the form of a job offer.

Your future employer is offering you an acceptable rate of pay, decent benefits, and is allowing you to work from home entirely. You share the news with your friends and family, and you prepare to start at your new job.

The job duties were slightly vague during the interview, but it didn't matter. You remind yourself that you're ready for anything, and whatever they have you do will be better than not having a job. It's good money, after all.

You do find it a little strange that the interview was conducted all over an instant messaging system, but jobs are all moving online these days! Your voice shouldn't matter, this isn't a call center job. This process seemed very efficient.

The company that you're going to be working for is well known. You think to yourself that working for a well-established company will offer you a better sense of job security, plus it will look better on your resume.

The broken English of the person that interviewed you did not bother you too much. Perhaps they immigrated here a few years ago, or they just weren't paying close attention to their grammar while they were typing.

None of this matters anymore, you got the job! You go to sleep feeling accomplished, knowing your first shift is just a few days away. You still don't know exactly what you'll be doing, but you'll be ready for it when it comes.

A few days later, you get a text from your boss. It's time to prove yourself.

Your boss explains that you will be receiving a package later in the day. Your job will be to repackage the contents and ship them overseas to a client.

You respond to your boss that the task will be no issue for you, but you ask if there is a company credit card you can use to pay for the shipping fees. You haven't been paid yet, after all.

Thankfully, your boss already thought of that - a check should also be arriving the same day. The check will cover both your salary and also the funds it will cost to ship the package.

You find it strange how easy this job seems to be, especially for the money, but who are you to question the worth of this service? Perhaps the package is coming from a merchant that doesn't ship internationally, so you are just remedying that flaw.

Your package comes in the mail, as well as your check. You curiously open the package and reveal its contents.

A MacBook? That's surprising they can't just get one overseas.

You open the check your boss sent you as well. It is for over $2000. There must have been a mistake, this is way more than what it was supposed to be.

You text your boss explaining that the amount on the check is more than what your agreed-upon salary was. Your boss explains that it was not a mistake as you will have more packages arriving later in the week. Anything leftover is still yours to keep, however.

Well, that makes a bit more sense. It's time to go to the bank and then the shipping store and perform your job duties.

You deposit your check into your checking account without an issue. All of the money is accessible and ready to be used. You almost can't believe that this is legitimate - this is way too easy.

You head to the shipping store and explain that you want to ship your Macbook to an address in Russia. The clerk seems a little surprised and asked if you have a friend or family member living there.

You explain to the clerk that no, you don't know anyone in Russia, but it is just a task you have to do for work. The clerk seems suspicious, but it isn't his business, and he lets it go.

You pay using your debit card and the transaction was approved. You inform your boss that the package has been sent and provided them with your tracking number.

Your boss informs you that you did a great job, and you will have more work coming later in the week.

You repeat this process three more times during the week. This job is easy, and you're actually getting paid for it!

On Sunday night, you go to sleep feeling accomplished. You completed your first week at your new job flawlessly. Life is good.

On Monday morning, you get a phone call from your bank. The banker explains to you that the check from your company bounced and that your account has a negative balance.

Your heart starts racing. You message your boss to explain what happened, but you don't get a response.

You call his phone number - something you have not done before - and an automated voice tells you that the number is no longer in service.

You start to realize all of those little red flags that you brushed off were real, and you just got scammed.

This is the unfortunate reality that job seekers face today. There was never a legitimate company, just overseas scam artists.

How the scam works:

The scam artist purchases merchandise online with stolen credit card information and ships it to a package mule (the job seeker in our story). The package mule is usually unaware that they are doing anything wrong, but they are still directly handling illegally obtained goods.

The package mule will then ship the package to the scammer, where the scammer can then resell it or keep it for themselves.

In order to trick the package mule into doing this illegal activity, they disguise the task as a legitimate job opportunity and provide them with a fake check (that will eventually bounce) to pay them their salary and the cost to ship the package.

Sometimes, the package mule will actually be paid, but they are still directly assisting in illegal activities.

If the police decided to investigate the fraud, the scammer overseas would be way out of their jurisdiction, but the package mule would be a prime suspect.

If you are part of a package mule scam, stop all communication with the scammers immediately. Return all stolen merchandise you have received, if possible, and freeze your credit if you gave the scammer any personal information such as your social security number or ID photo.

You can read more about the package mule scam on the following websites:

‘Package mule’ scammers use stolen credit-card info to buy, intercept high-dollar products

USPS warning of reshipping fraud

Reshipping Fraud - Parcel Mule Scams

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James Tuliano is an independent journalist from Cary, North Carolina. Tuliano is interested in covering the community, business, scams, and current events.

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