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Press Release

17 Domain Names Linked to Online Scams Seized and Frozen

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Seventeen domain names linked with work-from-home and reshipping scams were seized Thursday and shut down by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.

The websites were being used to commit identity theft, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud and mail and wire fraud via the scams, according to a court affidavit used to initiate the seizures.

Scammers tricked some job seekers into receiving stolen goods, merchandise or money often obtained via identity theft or credit card fraud and reshipping those items to another address controlled by the scammers. Many of these unsuspecting victims believed they were accepting jobs with a legitimate company and performing a legitimate job function. Others were told to make purchases with their personal credit cards that were not reimbursed.

Scammers use the job seekers to help insulate themselves from law enforcement. They also often use fictional company names, addresses and domains to avoid detection and thwart negative news or reviews posted online by previous victims.

The investigation began in February of 2021, when a scammer used someone else’s credit card to order a virtual reality headset and had it shipped to a home in Hazelwood, Missouri. The victim reported the theft to the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, which conducted a preliminary investigation and then forwarded the information to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

A postal inspector learned that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the home’s occupant sought and obtained work-from-home employment as a “Quality Control Inspector” with Local Post for International Customers LLC or “LocalPost.”

The occupant was paid $20 to photograph a package and its contents and then reship the items to another address using a shipping label provided by LocalPost.

The Hazelwood woman allowed investigators to use her credentials to log on to the LocalPost online dashboard, where records showed 25 packages shipped to the Hazelwood address, including a $1,500 laptop fraudulently purchased with a St. Louis County man’s credit card. 

Investigators found multiple links suggesting the scammers were located in Russia.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 64 complaints associated with the scammers. A Texas victim was hired as a “Logistics inspector” by the company Navois USA LLC to make purchases with their own credit card. The victim spent about $32,000 that was not reimbursed.

The Federal Trade Commission received 56 complaints about the websites. 

Acting Inspector in Charge Kai Pickens, who heads the United States Postal Inspection Service’s St. Louis Field Office, speaks at a press conference about scams.

“Although the scammers who defrauded an untold number of people are hiding from justice in foreign countries, we’ve shut off their ability to perpetuate the scams by shutting down these websites,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming. “This case should serve as a warning to them, and to those who may be tricked into participating in similar scams in the future. Anyone approached with a work-from-home opportunity should thoroughly investigate their prospective employer before sharing any personal information. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the AARP have information on spotting and reporting such scams, and victims can report these crimes to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service via www.uspis.gov/report or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov.”

Acting Inspector in Charge Kai Pickens, who heads the United States Postal Inspection Service’s St. Louis Field Office, stated, “The seizure of these domains is the result of a successful joint prevention effort between the Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.  Protecting consumers from mail fraud operations that utilize websites to re-ship stolen goods is a vital part of our agency’s mission.”  

“This is yet another type of cyber fraud that criminals, often overseas, are using to victimize hard-working Americans,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division. “To avoid the vast majority of online scams, make it a habit to ‘Always Doubt and Check It Out.’ With this type of scheme, do an internet search of the ‘business’ addresses provided and then call the phone number of that location to verify.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.  Assistant United States Attorney Derek Wiseman is handling the case.   

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Updated November 9, 2022

Topics
Financial Fraud