No longer content with phishing tactics like sending random bogus emails informing you that your bank account’s password requires changing, scammers are now using online ad boards like Craigslist and Backpage.com to plunder unsuspecting marks. Their bounty, of course, is all of your personal information: your email address, mailing address, and most importantly, your financial information. Phishers pose as people seeking work, employers looking for workers, and consumers wanting to buy your products. These scammers will either place an ad as bait, or they will answer an ad that you’ve placed.
Phishing ads will often look quite convincing and genuine. For example, I recently answered an ad placed in the Gigs section on Craigslist. An indie band was looking for someone to update their ‘old school’ website and that they had a limited budget. The post was articulate, witty, and with no grammatical goofs. After I responded to the ad, I received an email from someone named “Beth Robertson” — and from a completely different email address than had been listed in the Craigslist ad:
How are you doing today? I’m very happy that you want to becoming part of our company by working for us. Thanks for the mail…I am looking for someone who can handle my personal and business errands at his/her spare time.Someone who can offer me these services: Mail services Receive my mails and drop them off at UPS(nothing illegal)Shop for Gifts,Art works,Bill payment ( pay my bills on my behalf)Sit for delivery( at your home) or pick items up at nearby post office at your convenience. It does not matter where you are located as long as you reside in the united states.Let me know if you will be able to offer me any/all of these services.
Where are you located? I would love to meet up with you to talk about this job but I am currently away on business. I am in Australia so there will be no interview.I will prepay you in advance to do my shopping. I will also have my mails and packages forwarded to your address. If you will be unable to stay at your house to get my mails, I can have it shipped to a post office near you and then you can pick it up at your convenience.When you get my mails/packages; you are required to mail them to me or our customers. You don’t have to put money out of your pocket, all you have to do is have packages shipped to your house and do my shopping. You are allowed to open the packages to reveal its content.The content of the packages are computer and electronics,art works,antiques business and personal letters.. All expenses and taxes will be covered by me. You will work between 15 and 20hrs a month..I will pay $350.00 weekly, That is not a bad offer is it? I need your service because I am constantly out of town. I work in a realestate (sic) and I own an Art Gallery in Australia. I will return to USA in 30th JULY,2013 so this process will be on going till then.If you don’t mind, I will meet up with you when I return and then we can talk about the possibility of making
this long term. Well, let me know if you are able to handle the position.Hope to hear from you.I will email you the list
and pictures of what to shop for when I am ready. No heavy packages is involved! You can do the shopping at any nearest stores.
I will provide you with my personal UPS account number for Shipping.
All you have to do is provide my account number to UPS and shipping charges will be applied into the account.I will provide clear set of instructions for each task I need done as well as the funds to cover them. If I were to mail you money to do my shopping plus upfront payment for your service, where would you want it mailed to? How should your name appear on the money?
Kindly,provide me with the following details below
if you have yahoo messenger or hotmail to chat with you also about the job….
NB:You can give me a call on my US number which is roam to australia (sic)
Tel. 307 529 1059
The email address listed in the ad was email@example.com, but the reply came from firstname.lastname@example.org. Hmm… A search on the email@example.com address shows that the scammer behind this addie has been a busy little phisher. The above “reply” has been circulating around the internets, this time with yet another reply email address. In this particular case, “Beth” has morphed into “Charley”, but the wording in the email is essentially the email message that I received, verbatim (I’ve snipped the message itself; no need to read it all over again):
I replied to a craigslist add for a cleaning job… this is the reply I got! The hook is in para3.
From: charley whitehead <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 9:20 AM
Subject: Re: Male housekeeper & handyman
<yadda, yadda, yadda>
I have three domains listed for sale with three domain listing websites. I received a reply for each domain listing via The Website Broker website. A phisher claiming to be “Armando” said that he was “interested in purchasing products” from my websites (actually, this message was sent separately for each domain) and for me to provide him with financial transaction information. I’m not selling anything on any of the websites (one even has a placeholder page with links to my other websites), I’m trying to sell the domain names themselves. And even if Armando wanted to buy the domains, I would have referred him to my domain broker, Afternic.com. Sorry, Armando, but no vende to you.
Sadly, this particular phishing trend, scammers pretending to be potential employers by responding to an ad, then asking for personal information, particularly bank account numbers and PayPal information, is steadily gaining traction. This tactic is most likely on the rise thanks in part to high unemployment and desperate people seeking jobs: a rather unfortunate equation for the people who are scammed of money they can’t afford to lose. No employer should ever be given financial information, especially an anonymous one. Period. Remember when using Craigslist or Backpage.com to always choose to anonymize your email address when placing ads. Unless you actually reply back to a phisher, he/she can’t get your real email address (phishers are also looking to verify an active email address for sale to spammers).
UPDATE (5/3/13): Here’s another email to avoid: email@example.com. This phisher has posted three separate ads on Craigslist recently, using these headers: “special fx artist needed,” “Window installer,” and “Preschool Front Desk / Adm.” Somehow I don’t think this person is so genuinely diversified. The “special fx artist needed” ad is particularly creative:
I am currently in production of the short film “Eye tEye”(sic). An interesting and truly different short film following a man and his hunt for a real human eyeball.
I’m looking for a highly skilled special effects guy who can pull off realistic work. Only needed for one day. No compensation but will receive a credit and a copy of the DVD. Reply quickly or you cab(sic) be missing out on a credit in a potential awared(sic) winning film. Please leave me your cell phone number and pictures of your work.
I believe this the second time I’ve seen this ad, word for word (typos included). Any special effects experts out there willing to make this little phisher disappear?
I received this email in response to an ad placed in Craigslist recently:
i was wondering if you are still in search of a job, i got your email on craigslist because there is a position available . please if you are intrested (sic) send your reply to my email firstname.lastname@example.org
thanks and God bless
To which I replied:
Well, hello. You’ve been a busy little scammer, haven’t you:
Feel free to send me more information about these scams you’ve got going so that I can continue to expose them on my blog.
Yep, we’re on to you, scammer.
Read through the thread on this page; excellent advice given. In the meantime, I wonder if this scammer will take me up on my offer…