The back-to-school season has brought an increase in e-mail spam targeting stay-at-home moms and new college students, says Gary Warner, director of research in Computer Forensics.

Gary Warner, director of research in Computer Forensics, says there has been a shift in the focus of e-mail spammers during the past six weeks toward work-at-home moms and incoming college students.
UAB’s Spam Data Mine collects millions of e-mail messages used to provide investigators with spam intelligence and determine new attack methods. Since August, a large number of e-mails have been geared toward home-based mothers, moms who would like to work at home and students.

“There’s been a shift in the focus of their recruiting,” Warner says of the spammers. “It’s mainly a volume thing. We always see this kind of e-mail, but they are noticeably more frequent in number. There are at least seven campaigns targeting work-at-home moms.

“It’s the time of year people think, ‘Yeah, it would be nice to stay home and make a nice salary and be with my children.”

Work-at-home companies were the No. 5 most common inquiry received in 2007, according to a Better Business Report released last month.

Many of the messages require an up-front investment with no payoff at the end.

They advertise “type 30 words per minute and make $2,000 a day,” but require people to pay money for a training class so they can verify that the interested person can do the work they say they can do.

“One angle they use is medical transcription and say if you pay for the class, we’ll hook you up with the people who can get you this kind of work,” Warner says. “If you’re a college student and need some extra cash because you’ve got scheduling problems and can’t work, you go ‘I can type 50 words a minute. I can do that.’ The problem is these scammers either take the money and never make contact again or they send you tapes that are impossible to understand and say you can’t do your job, so they don’t have to pay you.”

Ads for criminal activity
Others, including many in the Birmingham area, already are involved in get-rich quick schemes that could be tied to organized crime.
The “reshipping” scam involves a third party receiving a package and redirecting it to criminals overseas.

“It’s items, such as a computer, they’ve bought on an online store with a stolen credit card and they’ve given another receiving address, probably in the same ZIP code as the stolen credit card,” Warner says. “They have to give another receiving address because theirs already is blocked by the vendor because they are known as a criminal.”

Many of the e-mails read this way:
“Conrad Logistics, a large European company, is looking for employees in the USA for the vacancy of Courier. This is a part-time, work at home job. Your task will be to receive goods, pack them and send them to our buyers worldwide. We will pay you US$40.00 for each package.”

They also ask for a resume or CV and promise to send additional information on this position and an employment agreement in return.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of people in Birmingham who think they have the best stay-at-home job and they really don’t,” Warner says.

E-mail offers that mention “foreign currency transactions” or “financial services” are called “money mules.”

The job of a money mule is to receive stolen funds into your personal checking account and then wire the money overseas, keeping a small portion —
usually 10 percent — as commission.

“The mob pays good, but what you’re doing is money-laundering,” Warner says. “It could be stolen money, too. It could be money coming from the victims of phishing scams. You’re going to go to jail if you keep doing it, because you’re involved in criminal activity. The best thing you can do is contact law enforcement and see if they would be interested in learning more about your circumstances.”

Tips on recognizing these scams and helpful links to understand the scams and report fraudulent activity are provided on Warner’s blog at