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.

More From Thought Catalog

  • 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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