I Got Scammed

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Before I even begin to write this tragic tale, I already know that most people will read it and think something along the lines of, “How could anyone be this stupid?” or “That would never happen to me. I am smart/have common sense/can sniff one of these scams out a mile away.” How do I know this? Because I told myself the same thing. And I got sucked in and scammed before I even knew what was going on.

Now, picture this: you need a job. In fact, you’re desperate for a job. You have been limping along for months, barely managing to pay your rent and having to choose between dinner and putting gas in your car. You’ve been applying for jobs for months and haven’t heard a peep back. Amazingly, one morning you wake up to an email in your inbox offering you a dream job (but nothing you’re unqualified for – in fact, it’s exactly what you’re looking for). This is the position I found myself in on April 21st, 2011. I received the following message regarding an office assistant position I found on (sigh) Craigslist (note: while the message is lengthy, I find it pertinent to my story and important to include as evidence of this tomfoolery):

CONGRATULATIONS.

Thanks for applying for this post, I quite I appreciate it. I got your resume and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it, So I will give this a GO !?I am happy to inform you that after close consideration with your resume, you have been accepted and given provision appointment.? ?Below is my personal data for you review,? ?I’m looking for someone that can be trusted and reliable, someone with good understanding and working skills. I’m Joe Hardy , I’m a businessman by profession and I have been pretty successful in a handful of ventures and business. I founded 84 lumber company in 1956 in the United States . I most very often get my hands occupied, so it is imperative for me to have a worthy assistant who can monitor and keep me up to date with my activities.I am opening a new branch in your area which i will be heading as soon as i get back and thats the more reason i need an assistant that knows about the area.? ?This position is home-based and flexible, working with me is basically about instructions and following them. My only fear is that I may come at you impromptu sometimes, so i need someone who can be able to meet up with my irregular timings. As my assistant, your activities among other things will include:?

?*Running personal errands, supervisions and monitoring.
?*Scheduling programmes, flights and keeping me up to date with them..
?*Making regular contacts and drop-offs on my behalf.?
*Handling and monitoring some of my financial activities..?
*Basic wage is $400 a week .
?
?I’m sure you’ll understand I tend to have a very busy schedule at this point as I am presently in United Kingdom for a business summit and also to get some raw materials . I will be back in Three Weeks time.
I think you’re the right person for this post, Please note that this position is not office based for now because of my frequent travels and tight schedules. It’s a part-time, work from home basis and the flexibility means that there will be busier weeks than others. So it’s a little difficult judging the exact number of hours you’ll be doing per week. If you can manage your time properly, this job may even give you some extra while you do something else on the side. As I have said, I’d want us to get a head start with things as soon as possible. I do have a pile up of work and a number of unattended chores which you can immediately assist me with. I hope we can meet up with the workload eventually. Permit me to use the coming week to test your efficiency and diligence towards all this, also to work out your time schedule and fit it to mine. I really need to find the perfect person for this job and i am confident you can take up the challenges. On the long run we should have a relatively sound working relationship between us.? ?I’m online most of the time as I am hard of hearing so I prefer to we contact each other through E-mails,Yahoo messenger and text messages but if there is need for me to call, I will be glad to do that. I am glad you are willing to work with me and i promise to be a good boss. I am also glad on the commitment in working.. I have been checking my files and what i would want you to do for me next week is to run some errands out to some of the orphanage home which I do every month. The funds will be in form of check, it will be sent over to you from one of my account officer and i have some list to email you once you received the funds. You will make some arrangements by buying some stuff for the kids in the nearest store around you so you can mail them out as donation to an orphanage. I will get you more information on that.? ?I will like you to get back to me with your Contact Details such as:?

Full Name:?
Contact Address {NO P.O BOX:}
?City:?
State:?
Zip-Code:
?Phone Number:
?Occupation:
?Sex:
?Age:?

?Once I have received your contact information, I will get back to you with the task for this week. Please understand that you will also be paid as well as its important for me to make the necessary steps before i get back from my business trip. I hope i am clear with that??Please get back as soon as possible…
84 LUMBER COMPANY?CEO ,FOUNDER?JOE HARDY

At first I was a little suspicious, so I did what any critically thinking college graduate would do – I Googled him. And guess what? Joe Hardy of 84 Lumber Company exists, and wouldn’t you know, he’s in his late eighties, so I guess him being hard of hearing and having the same sort of basic typos my grandma types in her emails to me makes sense, right? Wrong. So wrong. After this email, “Joe Hardy” proceeded to scam me out of $2,650 through a popular email scam known as the “419 Scam,” or “Advance Fee Fraud.” Most of you have probably heard of those people who received emails from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince who has been deposed from his rightful throne. This person then asks their victim to donate some sum of money with the promise of it being returned many times over once the “prince” reclaims his “throne.” The victim then sends their hard earned money, and the “prince” mysteriously disappears. Sounds ludicrous, right? Well, as this scam has gotten more and more well known, the scammers are altering the basic framework to lure in less susceptible victims (i.e. me). My scammer had the brains to impersonate a real person, and add details that fleshed out the scam and made it more believable – for example, telling me he’s hard of hearing, offering me a believable wage, etc.

Once the scammer gets the victim to believe whatever fake story he/she is presenting (job offer, sweepstakes winner, Nigerian prince, or even an internet romance), the victim is hooked. Anything that follows that would otherwise seem suspicious is overlooked because the victim has been utterly convinced that the scam is real. When my scammer overnighted me a cashier’s check and got me to have my bank release the funds early, he told me the money was going to be used (by me) to make charitable donations to orphanages as part of his philanthropy. And I, like an idiot, believed him! Never mind the fact that a real C.E.O. would never send money to some random person he found on the Internet, ol’ Joe Hardy is probably just a gullible old man. Thank God he hired me and not some evil person waiting to steal all his money, huh? Unfortunately for me, “Joe Hardy” turned out to be the evil person waiting to steal all of my money. Here’s how the financial part works:

  1. The scammer sends the victim a fake cashier’s check.
  2. The victim deposits the fake check into their account.
  3. The money shows up in the victim’s account, but is actually what they call “flash money”- that is, the money is available for withdrawal, but the check itself has yet to be verified.
  4. The victim withdraws the “flash money” as cash, then wires it via Western Union or another money wiring company to the scammer and/or their associates.
  5. The bank then calls the victim and informs them that the check is fake. The victim, having already withdrawn and sent the money as cash, is then totally fucked and owes the bank however much “flash money” they wired.
  6. The scammer receives his/her money, and is gone with the wind. Names and addresses turn out to be fake, email addresses and screen names are deleted, and the victim is stuck with a massive debt.

Comparatively, I got off lucky. The average 419 scam victim loses $6,542, whereas I “only” lost $2,650. Victims have lost entire life savings to this scam – it is no fucking joke. The Secret Service estimates that victims lose hundreds of millions of dollars each year to email fraud, so it’s not just the village idiots who fall for this. They call it the “Nigerian Prince Scam” because a large portion of Internet fraud comes from West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. However, these scams are also known to come from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Canada and the United States, among others. Victims of Advance Fee Fraud rarely, if ever, get their money back. The reason for this? Because most Internet fraud comes from abroad, it would be extremely expensive and difficult for authorities in the U.S. to track down the scammers. Not to mention the fact that most people are unsympathetic to the victims of Internet fraud, which definitely extends to the police. When I went to the police station to report my fraud, envelope of physical evidence in hand and organized, the officer I spoke to rolled his eyes at the mere mention of “email scam” and dismissed me to the F.B.I.’s website with a wave of his hand. Even though I was standing there with tears in my eyes, he clearly had zero empathy for my position and probably thought I deserved it for being so stupid.

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