Bryan Wilcutt : Curious Internet Bryan Wilcutt's Curious Internet

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Scam Man Cometh - By Bryan Wilcutt

by Bryan Wilcutt

Scammers have always existed; in fact they can be traced back to biblical times when Jesus raged in the Jewish Temple against sellers using false weights.

Not much has changed, really.

Today’s biggest targets for scam artist, and we use “artist” loosely, are job boards on the internet.  As the economy worsen the scammers become more daring.   Two of the biggest scam targets include Craig’s List and Career Builder.  We’re sure few of you are surprised to see Craig’s List with the rash of scams that regularly happen on that service.  Craig’s List has generated more victims than cancer! 

So what are the latest scams and how do you protect yourself from them?  Here are some tips:

If it is a work at home job as an “Assistant”, it’s a scam.

If the employer hires you without a face to face or voice to voice contact, it’s a scam.  A minimum should be some kind of signature document between you and the employer.  Without this, it's a guaranteed, hands down scam without question.

If the employer wants you to cash a check and send “only some” of the money back, it’s a scam.

If the employer says they will mail you something that you will need to forward to someone else, it’s a scam.  By the way, you commonly forward scam checks to other victims unknowingly.

If the employer is using a company name but the email is from gmail, yahoo or hotmail, it's a scam.  Real companies use their own domains, not a free system.

Scam artists are getting sophisticated.  Long gone are the days of the promised riches. Many scam artists use their instrumentation, a letter, in very clever ways—being sure not to exaggerate pay or job requirements for example.  How can you tell if a job offer is a scam?  In most cases, searching for the name of the employer, or their email, won’t work because they often change them.  You have to use snippets of their email exchanges with  in order to isolate whether others have reported them.

Not all scams can be guarded against and some of you will become victims, that’s the sad truth.  Remember, reporting your scammed experience is very important to everyone.  It’s because people do report these experiences that you may save someone else from making the same mistake.  Also, reporting scams to the local police is a good idea as well.  Many police offices/stations have people who handle scams.  If you find you’re out some serious cash as a result of a scam note that your chances of ever seeing your money again is zero.   That’s the tough breaks and why they are called “Scams” and not “Mistakes”—at least a mistake can be undone!

If you follow any rule, if you memorize any edict, if a single fiat is all you can handle—then this is the one you need to tattoo on your hand:

Never, repeat NEVER, cash a check from someone you have not met in person or from an organization that did not vet you properly for a job.  These are almost always scams. In fact, we can’t find evidence of one never being a scam.

How do check cashing scams work?  They’re simple, really…

“I’ll send you $X in a check.  Deposit it and keep $Y, sending $Z to the following address…”

That sounds temping, huh? 

What you are expected to do is deposit a check. Surely this can’t be a scam, the money is in your bank account right?  Wrong.  It takes days for a bank to clear a check, not hours.  Some banks will forward an amount of a deposited check immediately, usually around $50, holding the rest until the check clears.   Meanwhile, you pull out your own money to send to your new “friend”.  Your money is real and his isn’t.  A few days later you find the check bounces and your money is long gone.  Clever, huh?  Of course the banking industry could easily subdue this type of scam if they could verify a check faster (and they can but won’t).

Aside from losing your money in this scam, cashing this check could get the attention of the local authorities who usually assume you invented the check, not some distant potential employer.  The police are going to want to be your friends but not in a good way. 

Preparing for this story we participated in two scams, one from Craig’s List and the other from Career Builder.  No doubt it’s the same scammer, too.  Below are the two letters we’ve received in their entirety.  Although not all scam letters are the same, they usually contain a certain pattern: Not properly vetting you, not doing proper paper work, the employer is usually unable to talk to you because they are traveling (or whatever), their offered pay is reasonable, their want for you to “succeed” at the job is realistic, and their grammar is terrible.

We’ve researched a number of fraud reporting websites for this story.  With that we give you a caveat: You won’t be getting your money back from anyone.  Ever!  But, you can avoid others from becoming victims and you may also be useful in tracking down the bad guys.  Yes, they always get caught.  In fact, we could not find a single scammer of this type that didn’t get caught eventually.  The following list of sites can be music to your eyes when it comes to identifying and reporting scams.

Top 10 Fraud Reporting Sites
Common Fraud Schemes
The de facto website for reporting scams.  They cover internet, banking, credit card, and other frauds.  This is your one stop shopping for everything fraud.
This government agency is a great source of fraud information, making complaints, and the place you need to go if your computer is being held for ransom by a virus maker.  They post the latest internet schemes that criminals are using.  This is the primary place you want to report an internet crime.
National Fraud... the L is unknown.
Avoid.  They don't post anything useful, their complaints often go unheard.  Great place to go if you have a lot of time to waste and not get anything done.  Low budget website with broken links.  Why do they bother?
A good website with a lot of consumer complaints you can research.  This is one of the sites Curious Internet used when writing our story.
Where to go and report waste, fraud and abuse directed at the US Government. Don't bother reporting "The Government" as waste, fraud and abuse-- they have no sense of humor.  The site is ineffective for most complaints and we don't recommend it accept for reporting things such as counterfeit money and other things 'government'.
And our hats off to the best site on the internet when it comes to reporting and research fraud.  The Consumer Fraud Reporting site surpasses any US government site when disseminating great information.  This is the first place you should go.
Everything you wanted to know about check fraud but were afraid to ask.  It's all here.  This service offers a phone number to call to make your complaints.  Since the majority of job fraud activity involves fraudulent checks, this is a great place to research your situation.
Another info packed website to research potential scams.  Curious Internet used this site during our story and we highly recommend it.  These guys have detailed information on every scam you can think of-- and some you can't.
We like this site for its variety.  They not only cover your typical check cashing scam, they also detail other on going scams you need to be aware.  You'd be surprised what the bad guys can think of!   These guys can help you avoid becoming a victim.
Website Contact-Us
Some websites have an ability to report crime.  Both CraigsList and Career Builder did.  Neither did jack about the complaints we made. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try.

It’s surprising how terrible scammers write.  Both letters received by these criminals appear as though they were written by high school students.  That should be the first hint as to whether a potential employer is a fraud or not—they should take pride in their own ability to communicate and impress a potential new hire.  Seriously, who can afford a personal assistant if they can’t even spell ‘assistant’?

Below are the two letters we received from scammers.  Note the style and general content.  Don’t pay attention to any numbers or names, they usually change from letter to letter.


From: Steve Reddings <>
Sent: Monday, September 24, 2012 11:14 AM
Subject: Re: Mail clerk position

Hello Applicant

Your resume was received and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it. it's reasonable and acceptable. So I will give this a go.

I'm looking for someone that can be trusted and reliable, someone with good understanding and working skills.

I am Steve Reddings. i am 49 yrs of age, I'm Self employed..I am an importer by profession and I have been pretty successful in a handful of ventures I get involved in; from the Angel of importing fabrics to various welfare and community service programs. 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.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 imprompt sometimes, so i need someone who can be able to meet up with my irregular timings.

As my personal assistant, your activities among others will include:

*Create and modify documents using Microsoft Office
*Running personal errands, supervisions and monitoring.
*Scheduling programmes, flights and keeping me up to date with them.
*Acting as an alternative telephone correspondence while I'm away.
*Making regular contacts and drop-offs on my behalf.
*Handling and monitoring some of my financial activities..
*Basic wage is $700 a week .


*Good planning, communication and organization skills
*Must be honest, reliable & dependable
*Excellent verbal & written communication skills
*Must have strong problem solving skills
*Must be organized & extremely detail oriented
*Experience working with the internet, email.
*Ability to multi-task and self manage 24/7 mindset
*A willingness to do whatever needs to be done is a must
NOTE: The above qualification requirements can also be learnt if you are willing to take up the challenges.

I'm sure you'll understand I tend to have a very busy schedule at this point as I am presently in France for a summit. 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 we contact each other through E-mails 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 Cashier check, it will be sent over to you from one of my clients 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. I will get you more information on that.


First Name :
Last Name :
Full Street Address(Not PO BOX):
City, State, Zip Code :
Cell Phone Number:
Home Phone Number:
Current Occupation :
Email Address :

Once I have received your application form, I will get back to you with the task for next 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?

NOTE: This position is home-based and flexible part time job, you can be in any location, work from your home doing all the activities.


How often do you check your email daily___________

Please get back as soon as possible.


From: Christine Borg <>
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2012 5:23 PM
Subject: Re: CareerBuilder Job Application :MC021139 Front Office Help / Receptionist NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED!!!


The advertised position has been taken but i have another position which may interest you .I am looking for a friendly, simple & energetic personal assistant, you can take it as a full time or part time job depending on your choice. The hours will be between 4 to 5 hours daily which can be increase if you want and this will give you free time to go on with your regular job, The right candidate will have strong Word and Excel skills, be flexible and able to multi-task as this position will need to be defined as time goes on.

Main Responsibilities:

* Schedules/coordinates appointments.
* Arranges travel plans (e.g., flights, hotels, ground transportation, upgrades, visa/passports).
* Data entry
* Creates and edits complex Word and Excel documents and PowerPoint presentations with high attention to detail.
* Processes cash expenses.
* Prepares for and/or participates in meetings by compiling agendas, preparing and distributing materials, recording minutes, and coordinating and communicating various department activities.
* Provides general assistant.
* Performs additional duties as required.

My name is Christine Borg, I am an international Architectural Draftsman. In my job I am responsible for drawing plans for houses, house extensions, garages and large scale commercial buildings. I draw these plans so that the builder knows the size, material and design of different parts of a building. I also calculate a buildings energy rating, which gives a house a rating out of 5 stars. The more stars a house has the more energy efficient it will be.

Generally my day involves things such as:

* Meetings with clients and builders
* Drawing plans for new houses, extensions, garages and small industrial buildings
* Energy Rating Assessments of new and existing houses
* Looking after accounts.

Although this is a basic outline of things I do, it can vary greatly from day to day. I have been pretty successful in handling of various big projects in the United States & Canada. I'm most very often get my hands occupied, so it is important for me to have a worthy personal assistant. You don't need to have any knowledge about my work because your duties working for me is simple/ flexible and most of it will be done online with a computer and a brief training will be conducted for you.

Due to the nature of my job, It requires frequent traveling so i need someone to handle my schedule when I’m not in town, Kindly Let me know if you're still interested and I’m willing to offer you $600 per Week with a reasonable sign on bonus, I want you to answer this brief questionnaire below which will serve as a simple interview, Please answer them to the best of your knowledge.

* Have you ever worked as a personal assistant before?
* Are you taking this as a primary Job?
* If you want to make this your secondary job (How many Hours does your primary Job Takes? )
* Do you have Professional Reference? If so provide?
* How Many Hours are you willing to Devote to work for me?
* What do you understand by Privacy & Code of Conduct?
* Explain Petty Cash Transactions?
* Describe yourself?
* Are you willing to give your best shot at working with me?

I will be expecting your prompt response.


Christine Borg


“If it’s too good to be true…” is no longer applicable with some scammers.  Their scams don’t offer too good to be true offerings, at least not up front.  Given the current economy, too good to be true may just mean a simple average to low paying job!  Is having a job too good to be true?  Apparently it is.