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Despite having some pretty good anti-spam software hardly a day goes by without at least one spam email reaching my in box offering me a part-time job which involves transferring money through my bank account on behalf of someone else.

I’m sure you get them too, and they are also popping up on the internet under various guises. If you agree to take part, the scammer could use your account details to clean out your savings but that could be the least of your worries.

How it works

There are lots of variations but in general these offers involve transferring money for someone you don’t know are nearly always a scam at best and “money laundering” at worst.

Money laundering is when somebody tries to “launder” money they have earned from a crime to make it look like it came from a legal source. They do this by putting the money through a series of bank accounts to hide its original (and usually illegal) source. It doesn’t matter to them that they lose out on some money by paying “agents” for the use of their accounts – at the end of the process they have clean money that they can pay into accounts under their own control without the source being traced back to the original crime. I say original because every transfer is itself a criminal act for which you could be jailed. If the authorities believe that the criminals are linked to terrorism then you might find yourself locked up without charge and most of your legal rights fly out the window.

What to look for

You receive an offer that involves you receiving and sending money electronically. The offer requests your account details so that money can be sent to your account. There is a promise of employment simply by using your bank account, perhaps as an ‘account manager’ or ‘transfer manager’.

The scammer will suggest that they need an account in your country so they can conduct their business (for example, trading shares). Alarm bells should be ringing. Don’t get involved!

How to protect yourself from money transfer scams

Ask yourself—why would anyone want to pay someone that they do not know to transfer so much money?

  • Never send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust. You might not think they can access your account – but they very well might!
  • Beware of products or schemes that claim to guarantee income or winnings.
  • Beware of job offers that require you to pay an upfront fee.
  • Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money are the scammers.

These offers are always scams. You should remember that transferring money for someone else could be money laundering. If you agree to help the scammer by letting them use your bank account you could be getting yourself in serious trouble.

However if, despite all the above you still think the offer may be genuine, make sure you seek the advice of an independent professional (lawyer, accountant or financial planner) before providing ANY personal details.

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