Boy, do I have a story for you!
Someone tried to scam me! Actually, scam me out of thousands! But bless their hearts, they picked the wrong one to mess with.
So it all started when I was minding my own business, and I was chillin’ on my laptop …
And then all of a sudden, I got a message on Upwork. Earlier that week, I just blindly applied to a whole bunch of job postings. And, WOO-HOO, one had finally gotten back to me. Little did I know I was getting myself into a wild, wild ride.
The message said:
Your resume has been forwarded to our HR department and we believe you are capable of handling this position Proofreader and Editor based on your resume. Your details has been forwarded to Timothy (name changed) .
He would be conducting an online interview with you. The interview will be between 9am to 6pm your time, and it is just an hour interview to discuss about the Company, Job Details, Pay Scale, and Benefits etc.
To participate, you can have a G-mail account set up and also download Google talk app/hangout installed and message Timothy on firstname.lastname@example.org for your interview. And your verification code is KKK-990827190. This would serve as your identification number throughout the online hiring process. Your timely response matters a lot. Wish you the best of luck.
My first reaction was damn, these people really do need a damn editor and proofreader. The grammar here is just pure tragedy!
And another thing that was kind of weird? On Upwork, customers don’t usually interview potential clients. They simply look at your portfolio, negotiate a rate, and get going. And a another red flag is that clients are not supposed to conduct business outside of Upwork.
But I still went with it. I wanted to know where this was going.
Oh, and another thing. The message said the “interview” will be conducted on Google Hangouts, and I thought it was going to be a video call, sort of like Skype. I’ve used Google Hangouts before to communicate with other writers for an old job of mine.
So I replied:
Thank you so much for your time. I’ll be getting in touch with Timothy.
And then I did what I said I would do – I e-mailed Timothy. I told him that I got the message on Upwork and that I would like to schedule an interview tomorrow at noon.
And here’s where things start to get weird.
I kid you not, about 10 minutes later, I hear this odd “bloop!” sound on my laptop.
And I’m like WTF is that?
I waited a few more seconds and concluded maybe I must have been hearing things. But then a minute later, I hear “bloop!”
WHERE THE F*** IS THIS BLASTED SOUND COMING FR–
I see that the sound is coming from my G-mail tab, which I left open after I sent that e-mail to “Timothy.”
I click on it and then I see this little instant messenger pop up on my screen. It’s Timothy, blooping away, asking to have an interview. I ain’t never seen Google chat before in my life. It looks sort of like this …
So, in my head, I’m like “Didn’t I tell you that I’ll be available tomorrow at noon? And you mean to tell me that you’re going to interview me now? B***h where? ON AN INSTANT MESSENGER?!”
That’s when I knew something was up. But anyone who knows me knows that I love seeing where things go, especially when I already know someone is lying through their teeth.
*My spidey senses were going off like crazy.
Anyway, so you know I keep my receipts, so here’s what the Google chat interview looked like:
First he tells me that this position is for a company called “Sykes Enterprises.” And he goes in this whole spiel about what the company is about, its mission statement, and what they expect from their employees.
… He basically just copy and pasted a whole bunch of nonsense from the company website into the Google chat, really.
Then he actually starts interviewing me! On an instant messenger!
He went into asking me questions that are clearly unrelated to editing, such as “Have you ever been in the military? What do you understand by privacy and code of conduct?”
I was clicking back and forth between watching “Chewing Gum” on Netflix and this ridiculous IM interview all like …
Now here’s where things start to get interesting. He tells me that I am “hired,” and tells me about the pay, benefits and all that stuff.
You’ll earn $27.70 hourly, you will receive your pay via direct deposit
* Health/ Dental Program
* 401K Plan offering
* 15 -20 days Paid vacation ( tiered by years of employment), sick, and holiday time
* Pleasant working environment in young team
* Career opportunity based on self motivation and the solid growth momentum of the company
$27 an hour?! For a work at home, editing job? WHO ARE YOU FOOLING? And who in their right mind gives away that kind of salary by simply vetting someone over an instant message?
Nobody. That’s who!
This is where I did my research. I Googled the guy’s name and found that there was no one – absolutely nada, zero, zilch – not one person by that name that works at Sykes Enterprises. The company’s legit, but this guy’s not.
That’s when I knew for sure. Scam artist!
Now it gets weirder.
He says that I will have to go through two weeks of training and, for that, I will need to purchase some software for the free HP laptop they will give me. He will send me a check to buy said “software” and I will deposit that check to the ATM and mobile deposit (he specifies it has to be ATM or mobile deposit), and I will send that money to a “certified vendor,” as he puts it, to send me the software.
So the software I would have to buy is a whole bunch of sh** that no editor in the world uses to do their job. Inuit Quickbooks? Data-Scan? Xero? That’s a whole bunch of data entry and accounting software. WTF you can’t even scam me right!
But I continue to play along with this idiot … FOR NOW. 🙂
He tells me to meet him on Google chat tomorrow the next day. And I do.
By this point, I bet you’re wondering how this person scams people, right?
HERE’S THE RUNDOWN OF THE SCAM:
1.You see, the scammers actually do send you a check right to your mailbox! Thousands of dollars worth.
But the thing is, it’s fake!
2. Then you deposit that fraudulent a** check into your account, and your “HR manager” instructs you to wire that money (via Western Union) to a “certified vendor”
I repeat, “certified vendor.”
Translation: You’re wiring money right into a scam artist’s pocket!
3. The scammer scurries away with thousands of dollars that you’ve inadvertently paid from your own funds, and the bank thinks you’re full of sh** when the check bounces, accuses you of fraud, reports you to the authorities, and holds you fully accountable for the loss.
And the victim pretty much gets F***ED out of thousands!
Going back to the story, I told myself that I was going to scam the scammer! I didn’t know how, but I was gonna get his a** for trying to swindle me. So I pretended I wasn’t up to his schemes, and I had him send me the check to my house.
The check was $3,650.
Again, who the hell would send that much money to a “job candidate” they met for like an hour on an online chat?
My first mission? FIND OUT WHO THIS GUY IS!
I looked at the return address on the FedEx envelope where the fake check was sent, and it was a Florida address. I knew it was a fake address meant to throw victims off their scent. I mean, no smart scam artist would put their real whereabouts right there for anyone to see, right?
Instead, I looked at the tracking code and found that the envelope wasn’t sent from Florida, but from a small town in South Carolina.
My first clue!
There’s just one thing left for me to do. I needed to figure out this guy’s IP address. For anyone who doesn’t know what an IP address, it’s assigned to every laptop and gives information to others about where owner of the laptop is located.
The problem is that in order for me to get this scum of the earth’s IP, I need him to send me an e-mail. He hasn’t sent me ONE e-mail in the two days that we’ve spoken. So guess what?
I got to manipulating his a** to sent me an e-mail. He was hesitant, of course, because there’s a chance the scam artist will be traced. Here’s how the conversation went:
He asks me if I had gotten the check, and I say “yes.”
“Good. Kindly have it deposited and provide me with the deposit slip for documentation..Okay. It would be great if you can have it done today….so we can proceed in getting you your working materials so as to begin training unfailingly Monday.”
Translation: Hurry up and deposit that check so that I can pay my bills, you bumbling idiot!
So I start digging and asking some questions. I was going to make him send me an e-mail!
I wanted to ask you about that. You gave me a list of software that I am unfamiliar with. I’m curious about how would I be using these software programs as an editor?
You will be trained on it.
Dancing around the question, I see! *cha, cha, cha*
I understand and this is great. But how do these software apply to the task of being an editor?
Most of the software would be stored in the laptop that would be coming along side with your time tracker….so we can keep track of your time.
Can we take a second right here, at this moment, to take a look at how non-sensical this explanation is? I ask you how the f*** does the software apply to my job as an editor and you essentially tell me all the software will come along with some sort of time tracker?
You’re not getting out of this one buddy.
Yes and I understand a time tracker will come along with the laptop. But for example, how does Xero and Sage and Inuit Quickbooks apply to the task? I’m very excited to know about how this will apply.
Your training supervisor will brief you well all you needed to know about the materials and the job position entails more.
Perfect. How can I e-mail him?
Once you provide me the deposit slip..I will notify the Acct dept. So they can make a suitable date for your training.
*Cha, cha, cha*
That’s great. However, being that the job description entails more and I’d like to truly understand how the software applies to the job, I’ve love to have my training supervisor e-mail me. Surely, he/she wouldn’t mind. I am sure he/she wants their trainee to be very inquisitive about the job tasks and how I can be the best at it.
I threw my first fishing line. I goaded him to send me an e-mail. Will he fall for it hook, line, and sinker?
Sure..just follow instructions
Translation: What happened to the obedient little fool that didn’t ask so many damning questions?!
Tell him/her to e-mail me. I’d like to know more about the job details before depositing the check. I don’t want to take your money without being sure I would be the best fit for the job. It would be doing a disservice to you.
I goaded him again. Will he take it?
Okay. That why the Acct dept insisted they must see the deposit slip before further instruction.
Aah yes. That makes perfect sense. *sarcasm*
I understand that, but I do not want to deposit any money without being sure about whether I would be the best fit for the position. I need to know more about how the software applies to the task of the job. And you mentioned there are some more tasks to the job.
It would be great to know about this before fully committing to the position.
Fine if you must know. The company HR will be emailing you your offer letter by the end of today….. Your first task will always be emailed to you….,Once you sign your offer letter then you are one of us….
*CHA, CHA, CHA and a little salsa, too*
All this time, I didn’t want to blow my cover in being too inquisitive, but I was starting to get annoyed at this point.
I think we’re having some communication difficulties? Again, I asked about the full extent of the job tasks and how the software applies to the position. And I also asked to communicate with my training supervisor via e-mail. I can’t commit to signing an offer letter without really understanding the position. This sounds like a great opportunity, but I need to see if it’s a good fit.”
Everything will be mailed to your email. Okay.
Translation: I need some time to think everything through, create a new e-mail account, and give you answers that you’ll hopefully naively accept.
So he did send me the e-mail with a hilarious struggley attempt at trying to make all the accounting software fit this editing job, and then even tells me that this position includes data entry, too. *Chuckle*
Anyhow, I digged into his e-mail information and, unfortunately, hit a roadblock. His IP address is hidden. DAMN.
Back to square one.
And suddenly, I had an idea. He kept asking me to send him a picture of the deposit slip to prove that I deposited the $3,650.
So here’s my plan: There’s a website out there that tracks URLs. Once someone clicks on the URL, it snags that person’s information, and sends it to you. But the question is, how could I get him to click on a URL that would allow me to track his whereabouts!
And then, it hit me!
He kept asking me to send that deposit slip as proof that I deposited that fake a** check into my account. So, I’m not going to deposit that fake check into my account, but what I AM going to do is photoshop a bank deposit slip and forge it to make it look like I stupidly deposited $3,650 the bank.
I photoshopped the date, the time, and the deposit amount to make it seem real. I did make one mistake, though – I didn’t change the check amount. But hey, whatever! He didn’t end up noticing.
So I said, “Hey, I’ve got the link to my deposit slip right here.” Little did that foolish scammer know that once he clicked on that URL, I had an online tool that was going to snag his IP address and I was going to find out where he is once and for all!
Here’s the info that the online tool gave me about the scammer:
I did finally get an IP address, but when I researched it, I found out that he was using an IP address from a company called LeaseWeb, which gives clients (and often scammers) American IP addresses to conceal their identity.
Blocked again! But all this info allowed me to put two and two together. On Upwork, though the scammer pretended he was from the U.S., his profile shows that he’s six hours ahead of the U.S. in CET time (Central European Time) and I also found that he is in cahoots with at least one person (possibly many more) in the U.S. to send the fraudulent checks to victims.
As far as the IP address provided by LeaseWeb, that’s where my work stops. At this point, the authorities would have to acquire a court order to be able to extract information about LeaseWeb’s scam artist of a client who is using their server for unscrupulous means.
In doing my investigation on this, I’ve found about so many people who fall for this scam. Just check out this one guy who got duped, according to the forum on Indeed:
If you can’t read it, some guy in California actually fell for it, inadvertently sending is own money to the scam artist via MoneyGram at a local Walmart. It’s the same scheme: scammer sends a fake check and victim deposits it and wires it to a “certified vendor.”
I do feel defeated that I couldn’t go beyond the whole LeaseWeb thing, but let me tell you, it felt REAL GOOD to trick a scam artist into thinking my deposit slip was real and had him click through a link “laced,” so to speak, with a tracking tool.
I closed out the conversation with the scammer with a message pretending that I was an FBI agent, and that I know that he’s in Europe and that I will be investigating the South Carolina location, and acquiring his whereabouts through LeaseWeb.
He blocked me, scurried off, and is now ne’er to be found.