Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Job Hunting? Don't Get Scammed!

It may be tempting to go for amazing job offers, but beware for you may find more than you bargained for.

While applying to jobs on the all-powerful multipurpose site, CraigsList, I stumbled upon a job that was far too good to be true.
Nothing too out of the ordinary here, more or less what many legit listings provide on the site (trust me, I've seen tons), save for that amazing pay. I mean, who wouldn't pass up $22.89 an hour?! And with bare minimum requirements, it was sure to draw a lot of applicants.

I sent in my resume and got a reply the next day with a fairly strange message. Nothing that would throw up flags, especially for someone growing up in the internet age, but a little strange nonetheless...

Hello Vicki,
Our recruitment team viewed your resume published on (Craigslist) and we are pleased with your qualifications,we believe you have the required qualifications to undergo an online interview.

To proceed with this Bookkeeper / Office Assistant POSITION, you must undergo an online interview via yahoo messenger. You are required to have a yahoo instant messenger on your computer.

I want you to setup a yahoo messenger (IM) if you don't have one and Instant Message me (Peter Smith) on my yahoo ID (abacusdeskhr@yahoo.com) Asap for the interview so that you can get Started for the position.

Hope to read back from you as soon as possible.

Kind Regards
Peter Smith

A bit quirky, but why not? I went ahead and set one up (again), and having worked with Yahoo in the past was pretty confident. We then began our conversation today...

abacusdeskhr:‎
Okay we are good to go, can you give me some knowledge you have added to your personal skills from previous jobs?

*I reply*

abacusdeskhr:‎ sounds impressive
very well, let me proceed to introducing the company, the interview and what the job has to offer.

I am the Personnel manager for Abacus Ltd.Abacus Data Entry Limited is an independent, privately owned business that has been handling documents and data for over 30 years.It has always been our aim to provide a reliable and accurate service to our customers and that has resulted in an enviable reputation for the quality and reliability of our services. Our client base reflects our standing within the industry, some of our clients have been with us for 15 years and more, and include national and local government, insurance and financial institutions, motor and aircraft manufacturers, airline operators, major food retailers, charities, universities and many, many more.
I am here to interview you for the position you seek with our company. Can we proceed ?
Seems okay, but I look them up online just in case. There is an Abacus Data Entry Limited...but it's in London. Also, notice that he doesn't name the position he's interviewing me for, just "the position you seek with our company". Also, all this information is at the top of the resume I already sent in. But I continue on.
Me:‎ Yes, please proceed.

abacusdeskhr:‎ What's your Fullname and where are you currently located ?

*I reply with name and city*

abacusdeskhr:‎
Why do you want this job, what do you understand by the term "pettycash" and are you currently employed ?

*I reply*

abacusdeskhr:‎
How would you describe your work ethics and are you comfortable with the fact that this is an online/work from home job pending when our office will be completed at the end of next month in [city] (Downtown)?
I redacted the city name, but really? They want a work-from-home person before the office even opens? Why? ALWAYS be wary of work-from-home scams, even temporary ones.
*I reply*

abacusdeskhr:‎
Do you know how to make use of ms excel and whats your typing speed ?

*I reply*

abacusdeskhr:‎
Privacy and code of conduct..explain the phrase?

*I reply*
So that's...5 generic questions about ethics and general office behavior. AND THAT IS ALL.
abacusdeskhr:‎
This is a work from home job until when our office will be completed at the end of next month,you will be doing data entry clerk (accounting related) work will be sent to you daily via emails and you are to submit work back to me at the end of the day via email.

i will like to tell you more about this job. Can I proceed?

Me:‎ Yes, please proceed.

abacusdeskhr:‎ As an Office Assistant,you will:
*Enter admission and billing data for clients and payroll information for employees into the computer system, and forward documentation to the appropriate processing center.

*Maintain client/employee records, and distribute copies of compliance documentation to appropriate branch staff based on Company approved standardized paper flow.

*Ensure all client and employee files are current and complete, interface with administrative staff to gather deficient or inaccurate documents, and notify the manager when employees do not respond to requests for needed documentation and any other related data entry tasks as it may be assigned by the supervisor. I believe you can handle all of these at any given time?

Me:‎ I feel that I would be a great fit for this position and could start immediately.

abacusdeskhr:‎
NEXT IS PAYROLL & WORKING SCHEDULE
1. How many hours are you willing to Work per day? (4hr Minimum per day or 40hrs Maximum per week)
2. What time range?
3. Payroll Interval? (Weekly or Bi-weekly)
4. Payroll Method (Check or bank transfer)
We offer $25 per hour Plus Health,dental and Paid Vacation Benefits available also

Me:‎ I would prefer a 40 hr week. Working from home the time range if very flexible but my evenings (6pm to 9pm) seem to be rather full and I would be unavailable at that time. If possible I would prefer a weekly payroll, but bi-weekly would work also. I also prefer bank transfer for payroll method. Thank you.

abacusdeskhr:‎ mind me asking,what bank do you bank with?

*I reply*
Probably shouldn't have answered that, but it seemed innocent at the time. But here's where it starts to get super suspicious...
abacusdeskhr:‎
Just to inform you that Abacus Ltd will be providing you with a mini office equipments that would be use for the data compliment. the following will be sent to you
  • Hp Notebook Pentium D Duo Processor 1800 mGHZ, 120 Gigg HDD, 2G Internal Memory.
  • All in One Printer, Scanner, Fax and Photocopier Machine.
  • Microsoft Office and Microsoft Operating Systems ( Service Packs 2 )
  • Mini-Office Stationary.

A Travellers Check for $1000 will be issued and mail out to you for the purchase of the following softwares that will be needed during your orientation and training.
  • $50 For BS 1 Accounting software which is to be purchase This week.
  • $100 For Peach Tree Software (US Patent Single Users Pack)
  • You deduct $100 for your self as your sign on Bonus ( This is to Motivate staffs towards commencement )
  • Transfer the remaining to the Shipping agent to effect Shipping Logistics for your Equipments Listed above.( this is to be done via Western Union money Transfer or Money Gram )
Alarm bells immediately rang in my head. I'd been asked FIVE interview-type questions, then told I would be sent a laptop PLUS $1000?! With no paperwork, no signatures, no face-to-face, no background checks, NO NOTHING.

I mean, if it sounds too good to be true (or too stupid to be done) then it probably means you're getting scammed.

Still, on the off chance that this was legit, I continued the conversation...
Me:‎ Sounds good.

abacusdeskhr:‎
Please i will be needing the following informations to complete your payroll on the administrative desk.
  • Your Fullname.........
  • Contact address.......
  • Home and cell phone #.....
  • Email address........
I reply truthfully (though I don't include my full middle name) because, after all, everything was on the resume I already sent in.
abacusdeskhr:‎
This week,I will provide you with the shipper's address and i will be sending you the tracking # to the package so you can keep an eye on it to know when you're getting it.

Also you're expected to check your email daily so that you don't miss any instructions regarding the payment delivery and instructions and as soon as the Travellers Check is delivered,you are to report immediately on your yahoo messenger for further instructions.

That is all for now,i will keep you posted.Talk to you later and welcome to the company,you are to report on here by 8am tomorrow morning for the next instructions regarding the payment delivery

Me:‎ I look forward to talking to you tomorrow.

abacusdeskhr:‎ ok
bye for now
After this, things still weren't feeling right, so I did a little more thorough digging and found another person who was asked to create a Yahoo IM account. That person didn't follow up, but it definitely sounded sketchy.

A friend assured me that it was most definitely a scam since it involved checks and sending money.
They will send a check for too much and ask for you to deposit the check then send them the leftover...then the original check bounces and you lose the money you sent them along with the fees from the bounce.
The next day I was called when I didn't sign in at the appointed 9 am time. I played along, knowing full well this was a scam, and agreed to receive the check the next day. When it came, I immediately called my local police department and told them the details. A detective showed up not an hour later to collect the check and thanked me for my diligence. Now if only I could claim that $1000 "donation" on my taxes ;)

Now, hopefully you won't find yourselves in this situation — I defintely wouldn't recommend taking as far as I did — but with scammers getting even more resourceful in their deceptions, it might be unavoidable. Gone are the days of 'Irish Lotteries' or 'long-lost dead relatives' sending you cash in exchange for your bank information. Now we have legitimate-looking job listings preying upon the most desperate of us.

CraigsList has its own warning link posted on every single page, trying to help avoid scams. I've gone ahead and reported the listing to them, but their advice is also a good thing to take to heart, whether you're buying, selling, or job hunting like I am.

  • DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON — follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or other wire service — anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
  • FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON — BANKS WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE when the fake is discovered weeks later.
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.).

After re-reading everything that transpired it seems obvious that it is a scam, but to the desperate (IE jobless) it can seem like a Godsend. Each step was worded (albeit sloppily) to fill you with confidence, to build you up on your own skills so that you felt like you deserved this. Your resume caught their attention, you performed a task before the interview, you answered moderately difficult questions, you passed the interview, of course you deserve this reward. If only. I don't know the best way to scan listings for scam-potential. Very, VERY few of them actually provide a company attached to the listing. Whether this is to not garner phone calls and in-person inquiries during business hours, or perhaps its simply to keep anonymity between the hiring team and the applicant, I'm not sure. I just know that of 50 applications I actually sent in, only 6 actually included the company name. Just remember, while the internet age is thriving and we're getting more and more tech-friendly, there are some things that should still be done in person. Protect yourself, and don't do anything stupid. Because if it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is.

EDIT:

Shortly after posting this, I received ANOTHER job scam reply. I copy/pasted the first paragraph into Google and found others already siting the scam.
Hello, I am replying back to your message concerning the job posted on Craigslist in which you're interested in,your application was received, unfortunately the position already been filled, but there's another position to be filled, if you will be interested. I have gone through your email and am quite impressed, i think you are the right person for this job. I have had a previous Personal assistant who has been very commendable in her activities and who has been part of my life for the past 6 months, she has since moved on with her personal life and it has affected me in a way. I found her previously on the Craigslist website and I sincerely hope I will be able to find someone again who will be as efficient as she has been. I need your service because I am constantly out of town. I will return back to the state real soon so this process will be on going till then. If you don't mind, I will meet up with you when I return and then we can talk about the possibility of making this long term. JOB DESCRIPTION You will be a Personal Assistant,you will walk in to any warehouse which we will be disclosed to you soon and you would be expected to inspect,test, sample, and sorting of products or goods being Purchased. The Purchased products can include a large range of items, including food, Art-Materials, machinery, equipment or pharmaceuticals. Depending the type of manufacturing environment, When you get my mails / packages; you are required to mail them to where ever i want them mailed to. You don't have to put money out of your pocket, all you have to do is have packages shipped to your house and do my shopping. You are allowed to open the packages to reveal its content. All expenses and taxes will be paid by me including your weekly salaries. No heavy packages is involved! You can do the shopping at any nearest stores. You will be shopping for Art Materials and clothing sorting out my delivers and packages. I will provide you my personal UPS account number for Shipping. All you have to do is provide my account number to UPS and shipping charges will be applied into the account. I will provide clear set of instructions for each task I need done as well the funds to cover them.You will be working 3 days in a week and you're to choose any 3 days of the week from Monday to Saturday that will be preferable to you and you will be working 4 hrs in these 3 days and that will be from 9 am-1 pm and we will be offering you $300.00 per week. Type: Part-Time Hours: 15 Hours per week Days: 3 days per week Weekly Pay: $300.00 BENEFITS: • AD & D Insurance • 401(k) If you're interested please provide contact details. full name, physical address and cell phone number to get started. I will be looking forward hearing from you and then proceed on the next step forward. Regards.
This one doesn't sound merely scam-ish, it sounds downright scary when you think about it... "You will walk into any warehouse." Uh, yeah, no thanks dude. Off to report it to Craigslist again. In the meantime, in the immortal words of one Mad-Eye Moody...
Constant vigilance!