Employment scam targets college students and their bank accounts

Nothing says “scam” like a counterfeit check…

David bisson
David Bisson

Student scam

A scam is tricking college students into depositing fraudulent checks into their bank accounts with the promise of employment.

The ruse is simple. It begins when fraudsters post online advertisements seeking to hire college students for administrative positions. When a student inquires into a posting, the fraudsters tell them they’ll need to obtain software and other materials for their job. Ordinarily, the hiring company would purchase those items themselves and provide them to the applicant. But not in this case.

One email articulates how the applicant will receive funds with which they are expected to purchase everything they need. As quoted in an alert published by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center:

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“You will need some materials/software and also a time tracker to commence your training and orientation and also you need the software to get started with work. The funds for the software will be provided for you by the company via check. Make sure you use them as instructed for the software and I will refer you to the vendor you are to purchase them from, okay.”

Some time later, the fraudsters send the checks and ask that the applicant deposit them into their bank account. They then instruct the student to withdraw a portion of those checks and send that amount to a “vendor” via wire transfer. The scammers frame that transaction as a purchase of job-related supplies.

There’s just one problem: the checks aren’t real. That means the victim wired over sometimes hundreds of dollars for which they will never be reimbursed.

But it gets worse.

Banks aren’t particularly understanding when its members deposit counterfeit checks. For that reason, they’ll in the very least demand the student pay back the full amount of the checks they received from the scammers. They could also take it one step further and close their account once they’ve received their money, a move which could negatively affect the the victim’s credit score.

Meanwhile, the scammers could leverage personal information they stole from the students to commit identity theft.

Students beware! Any job that asks you to deposit money into your accounts and then wire money to another party is NOT legitimate. If you receive an email that asks you to do just that, report it to your college’s IT department and look for a job that purchases and provides you with all the training materials you need upfront.

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley Security News and Associate Editor for Tripwire's "The State of Security" blog.

2 comments on “Employment scam targets college students and their bank accounts”

  1. Nat038

    How do we spell cheque?

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Nat038

      Differently from American writers like David Bisson, and this was an FBI warning anyway. :P

      Although I do agree that British students should also check what they're doing with their cheques. :)

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