As a student who currently studies at a university in the UK, receiving random emails from strangers and advertisers is nothing new. But an email from a particular person stands out. Its an email offering me a job. And no, just in case you’re wondering, I’m not special. I’m neither the most outgoing/ smartest/ good looking / popular person in my year. And I’m not the only person who received this email. It was sent to everyone at the university who’s Chinese. This all seems innocent right?
It gets better though. The only thing I have to do for this job is to receive a batch of documents/ packages which will be sent to my address and I just have to gather it all up and then post it to the address they tell me to once a week. The reason they told me when I asked was because they don’t have an office so its difficult for them to send and receive mail. And the pay? £350 per week just to receive the document and send it all in a package. Of course I don’t have direct evidence if this was a scam or not, but I do know that a friend of mine did do this for a while and he said he got paid as much as the email promised and he only had to do what was described in the job description. Sounds too good to be true right? And when I checked the website of the “company” offering the job, they even have one. But no matter how you look at it it still sounds fishy because no-one in their right mind would pay someone else to send their mail for them unless of course, the package/ document contained either stolen goods/ illegally obtained information.
For the majority of students, going to university often involves a large sum of money meaning you either have to take out a large loan and become debt ridden for most for your adult life or you have to rely on your parent’s money. Further Education has always been so expensive and with increasing numbers of people going to university, in many countries it has now become a new norm rather than a luxury.
For many students this means they are often cash strapped so to make ends meet they have to do odd jobs (And of course there are some who want to do it to become more independent), making them vulnerable to such scams.
There have been however students who have inadvertently been involved in criminal activity such as money laundering or carrying drugs for criminal syndicates. One student named Joshua worked as a “money mule”. A friend from university had offered him a job where he would get paid 5% commission in return for allowing this friend to use his account to transfer large sums of money abroad. The guy told him it was to help businesses to get around the red tape of making payments to contacts and was all legitimate.
However it has been revealed that this was not legitimate at all. Joshua’s “friend” was a “10% man” meaning he was acting as a front for organised criminals and the cash that had been passing through the account was stolen proceeds from fraud. Joshua had therefore become a money launderer. The ramifications in the UK is severe and he could have faced up to 14 years in jail for handling illegal goods and hos involvement in money laundering even though he did not know where the money had come from.
Whether the students who fall for these scams are innocent or not, its disturbing to think that criminal syndicates are targeting young people at university due to their vulnerability. Its even more disturbing that they have access to private email addresses and have people infiltrated inside the university. If they have the power to do this, what else can and will they do?
All I can say is to take care and when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.