I Got Scammed

Luckily, I have really great parents who paid off my debt to the bank so I could just owe them the money, but I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have that safety net. Believe it or not, I don’t have $2,650 just lying around. It would take me a good six months of saving every single penny to pay that off, and banks really don’t like it when you take six months to pay off an overdraft. In the months since the scam, I haven’t heard a word from the F.B.I. on the matter (not that I expected to). However, last time I went to the bank, I was shocked to see a manila folder filled with fake cashier’s checks with MY name on them. I was informed by one of the branch operators that authorities at a New York airport had confiscated several boxes of these fake checks. The F.B.I. had contacted my bank to investigate my involvement in this newest shade of attempted fraud, and were notified that it was just the next link in a chain of theft. Since this crime ring appears to be bigger than originally anticipated, it seems that the F.B.I. is conducting some sort of investigation, and I have hope that they can at least prevent more people from getting hurt.

Because the authorities typically cannot and/or will not pursue international email fraud, there is little to no justice available for victims. In fact, the only viable form of justice for Advance Fee Fraud victims is incredibly weak – it’s called scambaiting, and the basic premise is that you lurk the Internet with a fake identity, posing as an extremely gullible victim in the hope of snaring a would-be scammer. When you get the scam email, you proceed to string the scammer along with the belief that you are going along with the scam by getting them to waste time and spend money on expensive international phone calls. I have heard of some scambaiters getting their scammers to do ludicrous things such as getting a facial tattoo or traveling cross-country and spending real money on fake travel arrangements, but the usual scambaiter just tricks their scammer into wasting time. All in all, some pretty weakass justice if you ask me. For potential scambaiters, there are some basic guidelines before you get started:

  1. Use a fake identity. Most scammers are actually extremely dangerous career criminals and gangsters in their home country. While it is unlikely that they will fly all the way to America just to cut your nuts off or whatever gangsters do, you still don’t need them knowing your full name or home address.
  2. Be able to withstand a lot of harassment. Scammers who get scammed do not react well. They will send you multiple threatening emails and phone calls (if you choose to go that deep), and will definitely send you death threats. Like I mentioned, it is unlikely that an overseas scammer would waste their hard-stolen money on pursuing a scambaiter, but these threats can still wreak psychological damage.
  3. SHOW NO MERCY. These people are criminals! Not to mention the fact that although they may come from an impoverished country, most of these degenerates are relatively-to-majorly well off by their local standards. I mean, they have computers, don’t they? These people do not deserve leniency or sympathy. They are only out to steal your money and at the very least deserve to be strung along a bit.

I’m sure a lot of you reading this right now are tempted to dismiss this tale, but I plead that you do not. I knew of and had researched these scams well before it happened to me, and was 100% convinced that it couldn’t happen to me, but it did. If they catch you in the right place at the right time with an offer that seems like it will realistically solve all of your problems, you will choose to overlook evidence that something is not quite right. I had multiple opportunities to stop this from happening, and I chose to have faith that this great new job was real. Typically, I’m skeptical of anything that seems like a quick fix, but at the time, I needed that job to be real. I needed it so badly that I chose to make a really bad decision in the hope that just this once, it wasn’t too good to be true. Trust me – losing the money (almost) wasn’t the worst part. The feeling of shock and humiliation over being scammed is overwhelming. I have never felt more stupid in my entire life. I had to go home to my parent’s house for the weekend just so I could lay low and avoid explaining to anyone who asked what happened to the fabulous new job that I bragged about all over Facebook, like an idiot. Even writing this now, months later, I feel my face getting hot, embarrassed by the fact that people are going to read this and know that I am so gullible that I fell victim to this. And yeah, it’s embarrassing, and yeah, and I know that a lot of people are just going to chalk it up to my own idiocy, but I think it’s important to tell my story in the hope that I will be able to prevent others from becoming victims too. Even if you think it’s stupid now, I hope you remember this story when you get an email like the one I reposted above. Because these scammers are out there, and there are a lot of them. Chances are, if you’ve ever clicked on a pop-up, signed a website’s guestbook, signed up for an internet dating service, or applied for a job online, you have gotten or will get one. Don’t underestimate your own gullibility in certain situations – always be alert, never let your guard down, and always ask questions. If it seems suspicious or too good to be true, there is a 99.999% chance that it is. Feel free to make fun of me or lambaste me or just blow me off, I don’t really give a fuck. If I can prevent this from happening to even one more person, my job is done. Don’t be the next person to give away money you haven’t even earned yet. TC mark

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  • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

    Great article. Edu-tainment is alive and well in 2011.

  • Luvmyhubbymike05

    This is so very real! My husbands Grandma was being scammed and we called the scammer out, it got ugly! You aren’t lying with the threats! Scary shit man. Chalk it off to lesson learned sweet girl!

  • RJ

    Good heavens – you’re not stupid. Far from it. This was a well-written piece and I think you are very courageous in posting it. We’ve all been conned at some time or another – financially, emotionally, intellectually – and anyone who says they haven’t is a big fat liar.

  • RJ

    Good heavens – you’re not stupid. Far from it. This was a well-written piece and I think you are very courageous in posting it. We’ve all been conned at some time or another – financially, emotionally, intellectually – and anyone who says they haven’t is a big fat liar.

  • InternetToughGuy

    It is you, you are the dumb one. No, really, anyone should have been able to tell right away that you were being scammed.

    • Tessah

      hehehe, har har har. you’re so tough/i hope it happens to you

    • Anonymous

      uhhhhh, did you actually read this?

    • http://twitter.com/andshewasnt genna mae

      For someone in a vulnerable situation, someone looking for an email that said exactly what that one did, it’s easy to understand how and why this would’ve happened.

      I’d like to see it happen to you, smartypants!

    • Peter

      Go Away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Evertz/25521401 Caroline Evertz

    For every 10 e-mails I used to send out on Craigslist in response to NYC apartment ads, more than half would come back as scammers. Thankfully they were pretty obvious  (basically all followed the same format of “My family and I just left for a teaching job in South Africa, so just wire us the deposit and we’ll give you the address.”)

    I was shocked at first how frequently this happened, but it’s true you can get sucked in easily especially when you are in desperate times.

  • Sam.S

    I really appreciated this. What a great article with a very important message. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.n.knutson Sarah N. Knutson

    Thank you so much for posting this. I know exactly the place you were in when you got that email and know how easy it was to believe it just had to be true. This is great information to reference and send to gullible family/friends too!

  • David Tuzman

    here’s a story of the ultimate scambaiting: http://www.zug.com/pranks/powerbook/index.html

    The scammer ended up paying hundreds in import taxes for what he thought was a macbook, but the “victim” just filled the box with a hilariously fake computer 

  • natasha

    Thank you for writing about this, I can see how it was tough for you. I think in general people always think that they’re prepared for stuff like this but when it actually happens, somehow everything we’ve heard flies out the window. Earthquakes anyone? I doubt that when I am in one I will actually duck and cover, even if I know I should. 

  • Rob

    Huge, huge deal-breaking red flag should have been the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company personally hiring you sight-unseen via email and, despite somehow having your resume in-hand, asking you for your full name, address, etc…

    Kudos for writing about it, though, perhaps it will make it easier for others to understand the core of the scam…

  • Jay Cru

    Don’t banks only release $100 upfront for checks deposited? How many times did the checks bounce before you realized?

  • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

    This is probably going to sound insane, but I almost cried reading this! I don’t relate to the situation, but I do relate to feeling stupid/embarrassed/having a story other people could draw value from and not wanting to tell it because I’m ashamed/wanting to hide at my parent’s house/desperately needing a job/etc.

    Thanks for sharing, so sorry that shit happened to you. It’s fucked up.

  • M909

    Thank you so much for this story.

    I posted a “job wanted” scenario on Craigslist for the first time a few weeks ago. I consider myself a very internet savvy person who unfortunately LIVES online. I didn’t understand why I was receiving so many response e-mails to my post, but I replied to each anyway.

    I learned that it’s very common for scammers to phish e-mail addresses of the elderly (particularly on Hotmail). It made sense why all of these “organizations” were replying from addresses such as “Marilyn1922@hotmail.com” or whatever.

    You think going to college and critically thinking would save us from such scams, but they unfortunately happen. I can’t even imagine the face of agape horror when you saw fake checks with your name printed.

    Best of luck in the resolution of your scam.

  • shakejunt2020

    simpleton

  • kristinjames

    i’m sorry; i’m trying REALLY hard to feel bad for you, but i just can’t.

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    I am assuming this is a meta-piece and we are the ones being scammed because no one under the age of 45 would fall for the original email described herein.

  • Anonymous

    Its not a bad idea to actually read some of the more obvious scam emails from Nigerian princes, etc. It’s like they hire the same writer — the writing style/use of english/ is pretty standard across the board on these. “Thanks for applying for this post, I quite I appreciate it. I got your resume and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it” — there’s your red flag right there. And of course, never handle money for someone from the internet.  

  • Anonymous

    Its not a bad idea to actually read some of the more obvious scam emails from Nigerian princes, etc. It’s like they hire the same writer — the writing style/use of english/ is pretty standard across the board on these. “Thanks for applying for this post, I quite I appreciate it. I got your resume and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it” — there’s your red flag right there. And of course, never handle money for someone from the internet.  

  • Train

    Oh dear, about a hundred hints of a scam-on-the-way. Sorry, but yes, that wasn’t all that smart.

  • Gnush

    Kudos for writing this but shouldn’t we all know that it takes around 10 days for a check to clear completely? If you deposit a check with more than $100 in value, the bank only releases $100 upfront and it never shows the full amount in your available balance (at least that’s how it is with Wells Fargo and BoA). They will also inform you when the check will be cleared either in the receipt or the teller will tell you. After 10 days, and it’s cleared there’s no way in hell that check is fake. You can always call the 800 number to confirm before doing anything risky. 
    There is a reason why not so many people are sympathetic with the victims. Because if I was you – dying to get a job + broke – I would NEVER be dealing with that much money especially with someone I’ve never met. I don’t believe Craigslist should even be used to look for a legit job let alone having a CEO of a big company emailing you back and forth. Don’t get me wrong I get gigs off craigslist all the time, but that place is not for serious job lookers. 

    I would feel bad for you if you were old and didn’t have much knowledge of the internet, but come on you’re a 20 something!!

  • xx

    i liked this article. “edu-tainment” indeed, i could see this being a documentary short! i wish the last paragraph was edited a bit more cautiously, though. 

  • xx

    also, nigerians…haha

  • e.p.

    also, i’m a bit surprised that you didn’t notice the spelling errors/grammatical errors/strange punctuations in the email. i guess that’s what happens when you’re tired and desperate for work. similar thing happened to my mom. fortunately, the bank detected that the “cheques” from the spammer were actually fake. they told her to report it to the police but they didn’t do shit.

  • Guest

    Ahh… trust me, I had been as smart as most of the authors of judgemental comments here until… yes, I got scammed. Probably typical eBay scam, when I think about it now I still can’t believe how stupid I was. And I totally agree with the author – the feeling is absolutely devastating. And it’s hard because: 1. no-one treats you seriously if you tell them about it, 2. you simply don’t feel like running around and telling everybody that you got scammed even though it reeked of fraud.

    You may be smirking now but be alert about things like that. They do happen.

    And Tessah – I know what you mean. I even haven’t told my parents – I’m still ashamed.

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