Scams come in all shapes and sizes, designed specifically to entice, swindle and trick as many people as possible. “Mission” scams operate on the principle of pretending to provide part-time or work-from-home (WFH) job opportunities and alternative income streams for people who need to subsidise or replace their current income. They may even falsely use well-known e-commerce brands like Amazon to portray themselves as legitimate.
Mission scams may also be known as a “YouTube Like and Subscribe scam”, though this is more commonly used in countries like the Philippines and India.
In 2021, a company operating a similar scam in the US was banned by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after using illicit and deceitful practices to entice victims while falsely claiming to be affiliated with Amazon.
Introduction to the scam
You may have seen similar job adverts in the past, where an online advert – usually found at the bottom of an online news site or dodgy social media post – tries to convince you that “you can make thousands of pounds per day working from home”. Often. these fraudsters centre their scam around legitimate e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Ecwid and Ecart, telling victims that they will be operating as employees or agents helping to increase sales.
Victims are frequently approached and won over with the offer of working from home and earning easy money through simple online “missions”. These “missions” involve boosting sales of products listed on an e-commerce site like Amazon by interacting with a particular item, whether that be saving it to a wishlist, leaving a review, or it adding to their basket to artificially portray the item as being in high demand. In return, fraudsters claim to offer payment rates of around £25 per hour.
After registering their interest, victims are told to create an account with a third-party site they claim to be affiliated with, and then tasked with improving the sales of allocated products. This pattern of promoting specific items may then continue for some time in order to establish trust between the victim and the “employer”.
We have frequently seen the task of promoting a product being referred to as ‘missions’, with victims allocated around forty “missions” at a time.
How the scam evolves
After working like this for a short time, the scammer then offers a more advanced role where the victim can earn more money via commission from the products sold. However, in order to be eligible for this commission, they are advised to deposit funds into a virtual account in order to purchase the items.
They are advised that the sale will not result in them actually receiving the item as the purchase will be recognised as coming from an employee account, but that visitors to the platform will see the item as being in high demand.
Victims are often pressured repeatedly to place larger and larger sums of money into their accounts in order to complete more “missions” and to gain a larger return on their investment.
Scammers offer reassurance throughout the get-rich-quick scheme by showing how much money the target has already “earned”. In some instances, victims may even be allowed to withdraw some of their money, creating the illusion that the funds are freely accessible and in a safe place before being prompted for more money in return for bigger gains.
Discovering the scam
Once scammers believe they have gotten all they can out of their target, or once the victim attempts to withdraw their funds, the account manager claims that the victim’s account is empty, that a fee needs to be paid to release the money, or simply disappears and stop replying to messages.
This is a clear indication of a scam as no genuine company would require payment in order to access your own money.
After discovering the scam, victims can feel betrayed, that they have wasted days if not weeks or months of their lives, and that they have not only lost the money they thought they had earned but also money that they have poured into the scheme.
Chloe Roche, a Fraud Expert Manager with CEL Solicitors advises: “Never throw good money after bad when scammed, even if you believe it is your only hope to regain money you have already invested. Contact the police and gain legal support if you find yourself caught in a scam.”