Newswise — Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Spam Data Mine urge the public to use caution when considering a "work at home" job, especially those offered by e-mail. UAB's Spam Data Mine collects millions of e-mail messages used to provide investigators with spam intelligence and determine new attack methods.

According to Gary Warner, UAB's Director of Research in Computer Forensics, the number of work at home jobs offered in spam e-mails has increased with the back-to-school season. According to a Better Business Report released last month, work at home companies were the No. 5 most common inquiry received in 2007, slightly behind roofing contractors and slightly ahead of auto dealers.

Some of these job offers are scams appealing to a "get rich quick" audience but in fact require an investment up front with no pay off at the end, Warner said. Others are actually advertisements for criminal activity," Warner said. "These ads are often targeted at mothers who want to be home for their school-aged children, or at new college students who need extra income."

Warner also warns against job offer that mention "foreign currency transactions," or "financial services."

"They are often looking for people to be what we call a "Money Mule," he said. "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 as your commission. The part they often forget to mention in the job ads is that the money is stolen. If you are involved in a work-at-home job that involves making wire transfers to European countries, you really need to contact law enforcement. You have been tricked into working for a criminal enterprise."

Tips on recognizing these scams, and helpful links to understand the scams and report fraudulent activity, are provided in Warner's blog, "CyberCrime & Doing Time":

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