8

Seems shady. Here is what has happened so far:

  • Job offer in newspaper: personal assistant, 10-15 hours per week, $500 per week.

  • I took the job. Didn't have to fill out any W-2 forms or anything.

  • Gave them my name, email, and mailing address.

  • Received a check for ~$1900. Had a note to keep $250 of it, and send the rest to another person via Walmart. I did that.

Now I'm thinking this seems very weird and I'll probably let him know I don't feel comfortable with this and just bail out. What does this look like to you guys?

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  • 11
    Sounds like money laundering to me. – Hart CO Sep 17 '18 at 23:03
  • 7
    Looks like a scam. Keep this in mind - you are the last recipient of that money. The paper trail ends at you. The law always follows the money. Are you prepared to explain who you sent that to and why? can you prove it? Or did you just take in $1900 and not report the taxes on it? – Kai Qing Sep 17 '18 at 23:04
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    Sorry to say, but most likely the check will bounce shortly, and you're out $1,650. It's a really old scam. Send a check, ask for a large amount of the money back for whatever reason, then the check bounces. – gnasher729 Sep 17 '18 at 23:28
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    @HartCO it's unlikely to be money laundering because money launderers would not expose themselves to the risk that the mark would just keep the full amount for themselves. As the other comments suggest it's just going to turn out that the check will bounce in a week or two, and the mark will be on the hook for the $1650 and whatever else of the $250 they've already spent. – Charles E. Grant Sep 18 '18 at 2:19
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    @CharlesE.Grant Of course launderers expose themselves to risk, there's no way to launder money without some risk. Scam is likely too, but doesn't really matter, it's obviously something shady. – Hart CO Sep 18 '18 at 2:50
23

Classic scam. The check will bounce and you will be out of 1650

5
  • Yep. It will bounce though sometimes it can take quite a bit of time. You may find all funds will be credited to your account within a few days but it will be reversed when the check bounces. Don't spend it even if it appears to have "cleared" because you are responsible for the funds when it bounces and it will. – doug Sep 18 '18 at 5:29
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    @doug "Don't spend it" Too late: OP says they've already passed the balance on via Walmart (which I'm guessing is a non-cancellable way of sending money). – TripeHound Sep 18 '18 at 6:45
  • @TripeHound Sure the money's gone with the Walmart prepaid debit cards. But the OP is still on the hook for the soon to be bounced check and must be prepared to make the funds good at their bank. – doug Sep 18 '18 at 15:05
  • @doug Correct. But it's gone from "don't spend it" (the soon-to-be-bounced money) to "find it from another source" (when the bank claws it back). – TripeHound Sep 18 '18 at 15:19
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    @TripeHound Yep. The point I was trying to make was that it's likely the bank will make the full check balance available and the OP will believe the check cleared and is good. But it will bounce and the bank will reverse it. This often occurs with these scams and people get upset because they think that once the balance is available the bank can't reverse when the check bounces. That can take weeks or more depending on how the check was counterfeited. They often are associated with a large business and don't get discovered for a while. – doug Sep 18 '18 at 16:09
7

This is a clear cut money mule scam.

FTC infographic on money mule scams

Per the FTC link above:

If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your bank, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

In your case you are about to see your bank account go down by $1900 when the bank figures out the problem. You should ensure you do not over-draft your account. You should make hardcopies of any information you have about the scammer and where the money came from. It was probably stolen before it got to you.

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  • @TTT From the text of the FTC’s image in the answer: “money mule - someone who scammers use to transfer and launder stolen money.” I’m reverting the answer to the original version. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Mar 22 at 15:39
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica OK. I didn't see that text. Based on that I'm OK with the revert. Too bad it doesn't distinguish between the two. I'd go as far as saying the text is actually incorrect. This absolutely is not money laundering. It's just fraud/theft. – TTT Mar 22 at 15:42
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica I may have to start changing my tune on this. I've always tried to take a hard line on not calling something "money laundering" when someone sends you a fake check and asks you to convert it to something else, because you can't clean money that doesn't exist. Furthermore, historically money laundering was about making illegal money appear legit. Nowadays I think the term is starting to also include "hiding the origin" which would include converting stolen money (if the check is real but from a compromised account) into bitcoin, despite it still not becoming "clean". – TTT Mar 22 at 15:55
2

It may very well be a money laundering scheme, although with money laundering, the goal is to take "dirty" money made illegally and "clean" it by bouncing it through different accounts to disguise its source and make it look legitimate.

Your case sounds more like straight-up fraud. Here's why I don't think it's necessarily money laundering: if the people you worked for were laundering money through your wages, they would probably issue you a W-2 and pay you in cash. The cash they would pay you with would be the "dirty" money, but it would look legitimate because they recorded it as wages on a W-2. Although cash payment of wages is a bit suspicious, it is not illegal. Money launderers don't normally launder money through wages, because it can be hard to disguise where the wages came from, and if they ever got audited, they would have a hard time explaining where they got the cash to pay their wages.

Money launderers that launder through a small business often choose cash-based businesses (like restaurants) where they can inflate the receipts they receive from customers and make it look like they earned more than they actually did. For example, if you ate a restaurant that was laundering money, they might require cash only transactions. Say your bill was $50. The owners might report your bill as $75 and slip $25 of dirty money in with the $50 you actually paid.

This is a more common way of laundering money than trying to launder it by giving someone a check and telling them to keep part of it. They have no guarantee you will actually deposit the full amount. I think you are a victim of some sort of check fraud scheme. Like the other comments and answers have said, you probably were given a bad check and will be on the hook if it bounces because you sent it through Walmart. That's why they didn't give you a W-2. Once the check bounces, there's no real proof they ever even paid you.

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