Early in the pandemic, Krystelle Goodman lost her job as a sales consultant at Zales Jewelers in the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
School closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant her teen daughter ended up learning remotely at home, like other Detroit students. And Goodman decided to try to find a job that allowed her to keep tabs on her daughter and offer help when needed by working from home.
Goodman, 35, scoured online sites like Indeed for potential jobs and didn’t find anything. Around June, she received an email out of the blue, supposedly based on her online resume, for what seemed like the perfect work-at-home opportunity.
Job hunters are warned to watch out for promises of high pay for re-shipping goods that arrive at your home. You aren’t likely to be paid and you’re often helping crooks sell stolen goods on the black market.
Goodman was to receive packages for customers who were somehow in a country that wasn’t able to access Amazon to sell their products.
The packages were sent to her home on Detroit’s west side.
Her duties: Open the box to confirm the item arrived in good shape and go online to get a shipping label. Then, she was to print that label on her printer and repackage the item in a new box to send elsewhere. Finally, she’d get in the car and haul the package somewhere like a Federal Express office or United Parcel Service to ship.
“Half of the stuff they sent was pretty heavy,” Goodman said. Sometimes, her boyfriend would help her handle it.
Some boxes had $50 ice buckets for champagne. Some had parts for Ski-Doo snowmobiles. One involved a snowmobile lift, which she later priced online for around $500.
Many of the items went to an address in Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb north of the Twin Cities.
One time, she said, one FedEx ship center on Ford Road in Dearborn wouldn’t accept a package and she had to email the company to find out what to do next.
They told her to just try another store. She headed to the Livonia store and the box was shipped from there.
Things seemed to be going OK. The boxes kept arriving and she didn’t mind since she was to be paid $50 for each package she shipped.
She was supposed to wait one month to be paid. But she didn’t receive a dime after shipping 22 packages over a month’s time. She was out $1,100 for the packages and more than $400 in expenses.
After that month, the emails slowed down and she wasn’t receiving any more packages. And she never, ever got any money.
“I don’t even know what they were doing with this stuff,” Goodman said. “Whoever these people are they knew what they were doing.”
Looking back, she said, she might have been suspicious when the company hired her without doing any background check on her to make sure that she was trustworthy and wouldn’t just keep their items.
She never talked with anyone – all communication was by email.
Goodman said she’s usually the one in the family who can easily sniff out a scam. Even so, she wasn’t suspicious until the company went silent and didn’t send her any money.
Like many hard hit by job cuts, though, Goodman said she desperately wanted a job. She had just bought a new car a month or so before the pandemic hit in 2020, got behind on her bills and ultimately filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the spring of 2021.
“It’s unfortunate and I’m just trying to find a legitimate opportunity now to be able to work and get myself back on my feet.”
Consumer watchdogs are warning of an uptick in jobs scams, such as reshipping scams, as many unemployed workers try to find jobs where they can work at home during the pandemic.
Across Michigan, the Better Business Bureau has received 10 reports of reshipping employment scams in the past six months.
“A lot of the time they claim to be from a business that actually exists; other times they will make up a business name and website,” said Ashley Gibbard, marketing coordinator for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan.
“These jobs are always remote and claim to pay very well, which makes them appealing to applicants.”
Many times, victims discovered a job on a popular site, such as LinkedIn, Indeed or Craigslist. Or the scammers troll sites looking for victims who have their resumes listed on these sites and then the scammer might say the potential victim’s resume is a good fit for a job opening at their company, according to the BBB.
Some people end up getting recruited for some of these tasks or jobs on dating websites, as well, where a fake “sweetheart” asks for some sort of help with packages.
Another big red flag: The pay that’s promised to work from home is often far more than $15 or $20 an hour.
The phony jobs use fancy titles, such as a “shipping coordinator” or “logistics manager” or “package processing assistant” or “package handler.” No one is going to advertise, of course, that we need someone to assist in laundering stolen merchandise.
The Indeed website warns: “During the holiday season, scammers might also seek gift wrappers. In this variation of the reshipping scam, you’d receive a package at your home, gift wrap it and then reship it.”
But the site notes that “there are no legitimate work opportunities that involve receiving packages and shipping them to someone else from your home.”
The FBI and others warn that consumers who take on these reshipping jobs are getting caught up in fraud rings that launder merchandise or money.
The crime rings can use stolen credit card numbers, forged credit cards or counterfeit money orders to buy expensive goods or equipment online. To get their cash, though, the crooks are going to need to resell those goods on the black market.
The FBI warns that instead of having the items shipped to the billing address, the fraudster sends them to what’s called a “reshipper.”
Anyone who does any kind of job and doesn’t get paid ends up losing hours where they could have worked on a real job that offered a real paycheck. Victims typically don’t get paid for their work.
And you’re at risk of being arrested for committing a felony when helping criminals.
Stopping to ask a few simple questions, according to experts, can be an easy way to avoid getting caught up in the scam.
First, what legitimate company is going to send you computer laptops, electronics, jewelry or equipment in a box to you so that you can ship the goods out of the country? Or even to another location in the United States?
Also why, given concerns about shipping delays these days, would anyone add another step to the process and ship something twice? Really? How does that make any sense?
Sure, some parts of this deal could look real. The items being sent to Goodman, for example, didn’t seem all that exciting. Who cares about ice buckets? And the company provided prepaid shipping labels. Again, experts warn that stolen information often is used to pay for those shipping labels.
Sometimes, the scam involves buying gift cards or Postal Money Orders, or transferring money, which can be done at home.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues to warn about how job seekers can end up unwittingly becoming what’s known as a money mule – or someone who receives and transfers money obtained via fraud.
“Never accept or send packages on behalf of others,” according to an alert from the Postal Inspection Service.
You can try to do some research on a company in advance to see if there are complaints. See if a company really has job postings on its website and then reach out to the company to find if the job is legitimate.
If you either can’t find a website, or the website looks suspicious – such as typos or no physical address – treat that sign as a red flag.
You can contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov/report or 877-876-2455 to report any suspected money mule scam. For more information on money mule scams, visit www.uspis.gov/money-mule.
The FBI notes that you can file an online report at www.ic3.gov.
As much as many people might be eager to pick up extra work during the holiday season, it’s important to recognize that scammers are ready and willing to take advantage of anyone who is looking for a job.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about this,” Goodman said, adding that these types of job openings are “100% bogus.”
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