Mysterious flyers promoting easy, online work for a website called “work23.com” have been popping up on bulletin boards all over campus. The posts offer part-time work with no experience or contact required, but appear to be a part of a larger scam operation.
Western student Thomas Velik said he took notice of a flyer Feb. 5 last week on his way to class.
“I saw this flyer and I was looking for a job, and when something says, ‘$15/hour, no experience necessary, start whenever you want, fits around your schedule,’ it’s pretty seductive, right?” Velik said.
Velik took one of the tear-off tabs from the bottom of the flyer and did some research.
“When I entered the URL it redirected to another site and I immediately became suspicious,” Velik said. “They required you to pay some sort of fee to them and then there was nothing on the website that describes the typical job duties or any contact information.”
Velik said he was redirected to what appeared to be a tax service site where he was asked to pay a fee. It was obvious to Velik that this was some type of scam.
Velik went back, tore down the flyer he saw and began doing further research. He notified the Student Employment Center, University Police and The Western Front.
“Not only was it the case here, but there were also other college students on other campuses in other states, including states that do not border Washington, that were also getting this sort of mysterious flyer that also redirected back to the work site,” Velik said.
Velik said that each state has different redirect links, but all of them seemed to be targeting various college campuses nationwide and attempting to blend in with legitimate campus organizations elsewhere.
“This is a national phenomenon. This is weird,” Velik said. “There’s probably some sort of organizational hierarchy, local affiliate system or something that’s being perpetrated here.”
According to a public service announcement from the FBI, scams like these have been going on in universities across the country for years now.
Falling for the scam could lead to the student’s bank account being closed due to fraudulent activity as well as being served with federal charges, according to the FBI. Without the student’s participation, the scam could not be perpetrated, so they are considered the one who facilitated the theft.
The FBI urges students to forward these emails to the university’s IT personnel and tell other students to be on the lookout for the scam.
Velik shared his advice for fellow students on how to spot scams like these.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Velik said. “Plus, legitimate employers will never ask you to pay them in advance for some obscure service that they may not actually deliver on.”
Ken Pearce, IT security manager from Western’s Information Security Office, said their office is not involved in any active investigation on these flyers, but they are making an effort to stop the spam.
“A person’s best defense is their own education and awareness of the threat these messages pose. Err on the side of caution, and stay vigilant,” Pearce said in an email.