Commerce Department warns about fake insurance scam

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, October 29, 2017

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is alerting Minnesotans to be on guard against a fraudulent employment offer that claims to be from an insurance agency in the state, according to a press release.

In the past week, the Commerce Department has received five complaints and inquiries from Minnesotans who were contacted, via email and phone, by someone claiming to be with “Skyline Insurance” and offering a job re-labeling and forwarding packages to other addresses. The job offer promises as much as $3,500 per month for the work.

The problem? There is no insurance business licensed in Minnesota by the name of Skyline Insurance. There is no Skyline Insurance located at the physical address listed in the email, nor does anyone answer at the phone number. The company’s purported federal employer identification number actually belongs to eBay. The company’s website is fake, too, but with a minimal amount of content to make it look like a legitimate insurance agency.

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The scam? It is known as “reshipping” and often shows up as a “work from home” opportunity posted on job boards, dating websites or chat rooms. In reality, it is an attempt to lure unsuspecting individuals to participate in a large-scale fraud scheme.

Criminals use stolen credit cards to buy high-priced goods online and have them sent to the U.S. addresses of “reshipping mules,” who repackage the stolen goods and mail it to overseas addresses. Not only do the reshippers get pulled into a crime, they also typically never get paid and, in fact, lose the money they spent on their own for the reshipping.   

Sometimes the scam also involves the victim getting a fake certified or regular check to deposit in their own bank account. They are instructed to use some of it for postage but wire transfer most of it elsewhere. When the bank determines the check is counterfeit or part of a crime, the victim may end up responsible for the full amount of the check along with any bank fees.

The Commerce Department offers the following tips to help Minnesotans avoid getting lured into a reshipping scam:

Don’t accept or mail suspicious packages. No legitimate business should ask you to accept packages at your address and forward them someplace else, especially a foreign address.

Protect your money. Be suspicious if you are asked to make any upfront payments, transfer money from your bank account or wire transfer money for the “employer.” 

Safeguard your information. Don’t give out any sensitive personal or financial information that the scammers can exploit. Even if they are not reshipping operators, they may be identity thieves.

Do some research. Simply looking at the company’s website may not be enough because reshipping operators often set up websites that can look legitimate. Check out the company with the Minnesota Commerce Department or the Better Business Bureau.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. An offer to pay $3,500 per month simply to resend packages from your home doesn’t pass the smell test.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also provides advice about reshipping scams.