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New scam turns online job-seekers into unwitting money-launderers (LinkedIn used to recruit ‘money-mules’)

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A new, nefarious twist on cybercrime is turning innocent jobs seekers into unwitting money-launderers.

According to the folks on Symantec’s Norton Internet security team, the bad guys monitor legitimate job boards and recruitment websites, such as LinkedIn, and harvest personal information from job posts or resumes. They then contact users about opportunities with “art dealers” or similar bogus businesses.

Norton’s experts note that the still-sagging economy has created a rich vein of potential victims. People who have been looking diligently for a job for months can think they’ve been offered a great opportunity.

After the victim responds to the initial email, he or she is asked for extensive personal information. He may even be offered money if he coughs up bank account details. The form used to collect the details (which — red flag! — must be downloaded) is described as a “test prepared by professional psychologists” and that filling it out completely is “required in order to be considered a competent candidate for the offered position.” (See an example of the form)

The victims are turned into what Norton’s experts and other other cybercrime watchers call “money mules” — people who launder cash through various bank accounts to obscure a trail of ill-gotten gain. Normally, the mules are criminals themselves; they’re in on the scheme. But in this new scenario, they are unwitting accomplices as dirty money is washed through their accounts.

The possible outcomes are sobering: Identity theft. Loss of money in a personal account. Possible legal entanglements.

So, by all means hit the job-hunting trail, and hit it hard. But be ever-vigilant of shady characters online.

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