One of the most dangerous scams
By Paul F. Murray, Wealthy Affiliate member
This scam targets people who are desperately searching for work, online or otherwise. These scammers are the worst of the scum out there because they have no qualms, no hesitation of conscience, about taking advantage of people such as retirees, the unemployed, low-income workers, individuals with high medical bills they can’t pay, students trying to pay their tuition, and so on, anybody who cannot afford to be put in even worse financial circumstances than they are already in. They don’t care if that is what they are doing, just as long as they get away cleanly with several thousand dollars of what you think is your money.
Red flags to be aware of:
- Someone offers to hire you for a job requiring training. The scammers say that they will send you a check to cover purchase of “necessary equipment” such as specialized software, a new laptop with the latest gizmos, whatever. They want you to cash the check they send by Federal Express, UPS, whatever as quickly as possible, preferably at an ATM machine and then send most of the money you think you have deposited as quickly as possible to them.
- Someone offers you a job but says you have to pay for training or new equipment, etc. Just run away, very fast. No legitimate company requires you to pay them; they pay you—remember?
- Someone offers to hire you for a high-paying job without a face-to-face interview or even an interview over the phone, just a few online questions, and no request for references.
Here’s what happened to me:
Prior to my association with Wealthy Affiliate, a legitimate way to earn online money, I was searching a legitimate online job board (Upwork, as I recall) where I saw an ad that a well-known financial services company back East in Boston (I won’t mention the name of the company that the scammers pretended to represent) was looking for an experienced writer to edit marketing copy. Seemed perfect for me, a semi-retired newspaper reporter looking for part-time income.
I applied for the job, which purportedly paid $30.40 an hour, with flexible hours. The scammers got in touch with me by G-mail, asking a few simple questions such as “Why should we hire you?” “What was your most recent job?” “What will past employers say about you?” (but no request for past employers’ addresses and phone numbers), and a writing test.
Unsurprisingly, I was quickly hired. The scammers began to discuss my training schedule. Clue No. 1: A legitimate company that hires you will typically provide a letter or email officially welcoming you to the company, or else certainly provide you with one upon request. This commits the company to hiring you and not changing their minds. It also assures you as a new hire that you do not need to keep looking and interviewing. There was no welcome letter or email from the scammers.
The individual scammer that I was most in contact with by G-mail started acting funny. Clue No. 2: The scammer started trying to put a fast time limit on me, asking me questions as I started the “training” such as “Why did it take you so long to complete that assignment?” and “How quickly can you get this done? Report back to me as soon as you can.” In other words, I began to notice a certain nervous jumpiness on the part of the scammer pretending to be a legitimate employer. He wanted every task done at warp speed.
After a few days of this, the contact scammer said he would send me a check for $3,500 to pay for a new computer and software. I was to keep $50 of this amount, and the rest I was to send to an address they would give me once I had deposited their check at my bank. Clue No. 3: The scammer G-mailed me that the $3,500 check was on its way by FedEx and he asked me to deposit the check at my bank’s ATM machine. In other words, the scammer did not want me talking to anyone at my bank or showing the check to anyone at my bank; he just wanted me to deposit the $3,500 check at my bank ASAP and get immediate electronic credit for it in my checking account. Clue No. 4: When the check arrived via FedEx the cover letter was not on any company’s letterhead; it was on plain white paper and signed by another scammer member pretending to be a chief financial officer (or whatever he said he was). Clue No. 5: The check was not made out from the financial services company that the scammers said they were with; the check was from a totally different company, in this case a construction firm, not the financial services company that I had thought I was dealing with. Moreover, the check from the alleged construction firm was from an Atlanta, Georgia bank, not Boston, Massachusetts, where the scammers pretending to be a legitimate employer said they were from.
At this point I began to get seriously nervous about handling that much money from someone I didn’t know. I certainly did not feel comfortable just sticking a $3,500 check into an ATM machine and getting a mechanical receipt. I showed the check to a customer service representative at my bank and she showed the check to a bank officer. Both bank employees said that the check which I had received was FRAUDULENT. They said they had seen this type of scam before. The bank officer at my bank called the bank in Atlanta, Georgia [not Boston] that the check was drawn on regarding the check and was told that the construction company listed on the check had closed that particular account several weeks earlier because that account had been compromised.
My bank officer suggested that I simply tear up the check since it was worthless. She thanked me profusely for coming to them first to show them the (fraudulent) check so that I was saved from being scammed. She suggested that I let the police know about the attempted scam.
I did go to the police and told them about the attempted scam. The police officer told me that here is what would have happened had I thought the $3,500 check was legitimate and cashed it: the scammers were hoping that immediately after depositing the fraudulent check, as quickly as I could, I would then withdraw most of the funds from it and take that very real money to a Western Union location and send the scammers a money order for just about all of the $3,500 to an address, perhaps a PO Box, that they would give me. The scammers would then disappear forever, with me having no job and owing my bank for that ghost $3,500 once the bank would have discovered on their own that the check was fraudulent.
If I could not have paid my bank that $3,500 back very, very quickly, I would have faced some serious legal consequences, including criminal charges.
So if you are potentially victimized by a scammer like this, you, yes—YOU—could be the one going to prison if you just assume that the check is legitimate and you don’t ask questions about the check you receive from the scammers and you decide to keep quiet, not say anything, and just take your share of the fraudulent money and send the rest to the scammers. You could be facing serious legal problems even if, with total naivete, you thought the check you received from the scammers was 100% legitimate.
It’s not worth it! Fall victim to a scam like this and your life as you have lived it up that point could be over.Technically, anyone who falls victim to a scam like this has robbed their bank if they cannot repay the money, and quickly.
I am wondering if anyone else has nearly fallen victim or actually fallen victim to a scam like this. I am sure this is not the only scam of this type that is out there. By sharing your story through adding a comment, you will be helping others to avoid pitfalls that may not only cost them money but possibly jail time.