Job-seekers, beware reshipment work scams

Imagine that you’re looking for ways to supplement your income with a part-time job. For millions, this means logging onto online jobs boards like Craigslist, Monster.com, and others. For those of us who have family or other commitments, work-at-home opportunities can mean the difference between paying the rent and being out on the street.

Unfortunately, scammers also know that work-at-home jobs are in high demand. This is a big reason why one type of scam -- the reshipment scam -- is one we hear about regularly.

Reshipment scams are a key part of the larger problem of carding fraud, where scam artists – often located overseas – use stolen credit cards to purchase high-dollar merchandise (think designer clothing, iPhones, Apple Macbooks, etc.) that they can resell for a profit in their home countries. However, there’s a catch. Many online merchants will not ship purchases to places like Russia or certain Eastern European countries due to the high incidence of fraud. That’s where reshipment scams come in.

In a typical reshipment scam, an unwitting consumer (known as a “mule” by the scammers) is recruited through a work-at-home job listing to accept packages at a U.S. home address, repackage the merchandise, and ship the package to its final destination overseas (hence, reshipping). In exchange, the consumer is promised a hefty salary, sometimes thousands of dollars for a month’s work. When the consumer gets the first inkling that she may be ensnared in a scam is when payday arrives and her “employer” (in reality, the scammer) fails to send a payment and cuts off contact. The scammer, meanwhile, has received thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise overseas (and thus, out of U.S. law enforcement’s reach) and is quickly turning those computers, smartphones and designer shoes in to cold, hard cash.

This complaint we received from a consumer in New York is typical of what happens in these scams:

This company contacted me via email to apply for a position to work at home as a forwarding agent. I responded to the email asking for more information on the job. When I received the information and reviewed it as well as the company's website, I thought that the company was legit and proceeded to apply. They promptly called me back and held a phone interview with me and provided me with the same details of the job as I was emailed (this included getting $2,500 per month for the position).

I agreed and sent them a picture of me holding my license as requested. I then received my first package a few days later and then for 30 days received packages every other day that I was to inventory, repackage and then mail out with prepaid shipping labels that they uploaded to my dashboard. After working for the company for 30 days I was no longer able to log into my dashboard, no matter how many times I reset my password, and the packages stopped coming. My pay date was set for the 29th of August and I have yet to see the check that they told me I would receive.

I have tried to call the number that I was contacted from (I call once every couple of hours or so) and left a voicemail to have them call me back. I have been calling this number for about 4 days and left several voicemails without ever receiving a return phone call.

While reshipment scams do not typically cost the defrauded consumer money directly, victims are harmed by the money they lose driving packages to post offices or shipping facilities. In addition, they can end up in legal jeopardy because by participating in the reshipment scam, they are trafficking stolen merchandise.

Consumers can avoid getting pulled in to reshipment scams by using the following tips:

  1. Beware of companies offering work-at-home opportunities with titles like “shipping clerk,” “forwarding agent,” “receiving agent,” or similar titles. These are often a lure to get prospective consumers to contact the scammers.

  2. If you are told to accept packages at your home, repackage them, attach a prepaid shipping label, and send the package on to another country, it’s probably a scam.

  3. If you’re interested in a work-at-home opportunity, be sure to check references thoroughly. If the company name isn’t readily findable through a Google search or if the company isn’t registered with your state’s Department of State, it could be a scam.

If you’ve been approached to participate or have already participated in what you believe to be a reshipping scam, report it! Consumers can file complaints via our secure online complaint form and we’ll share the complaint with our network of law enforcement and consumer protection partners.