Five years ago (I was 21 at the time), I found myself suddenly and abruptly without a job. I had recently moved out of my parents’ house, and in with a few roommates. There were now people who depended on me to pay rent on time, and contribute to paying the bills, so finding a job soon was a major priority. Luckily, my parents taught me the importance of saving money, and while I still lived at home rent- and bill-free, I was able to save basically all of my income. I had savings of about $4,000, which covered my butt for a while. I was really proud of myself for saving that much money, so it was painful for me to tap into it in order to get by.
I was applying to any and every job available. I was getting desperate, and started scanning through odd jobs people posted on my college’s student job site. People would post job opportunities geared towards college students, such as babysitting gigs, yard work, assistant jobs, and so on.
This particular personal assistant job caught my eye. It entailed running errands, doing paperwork, scheduling appointments, organizing the office, etc. I contacted the company expressing my interest in the position. They immediately “hired” me, without asking any questions about me, or even my work history. They also didn’t give me any information about them or what they did as a business. Odd. I asked some questions about the company, what they did there, and how much my salary would be. In return, I received very vague answers and descriptions — nothing concrete, just that they urgently needed the help of a full-time assistant.
Things got even weirder. They emailed me and explained that they were currently out of the country on business, but they needed me to complete my first task. The task was that they wanted me to wire a $1,000 check to one of their clients, pronto. They didn’t give me any details as to what the check was for, and I hadn’t even met my new employer face-to-face yet. They said they were going to mail me the check, which would be issued to me. I would then need to deposit the check into my bank account, then go to Money Mart (or some such establishment) to send the money from my account to the client (they would provide their name and address with the check).
Guys…I was so naïve and confused by this process, but I agreed to do it. It all seemed very vague and sketchy to me, but I was desperate and relieved to have a job at all, so I ignored the warning signs. I was notified that they had mailed me the check, and instructed to confirm with them once I had deposited the money into my account and wired it to their client. The days following, this person became very intense and pushy — constantly following up to see if I received the check yet, and stating how urgent it was that I complete this task ASAP. I finally received the check in the mail, and deposited it into my checking account without any problems.
On my way to Money Mart to wire the money to their client, I received a phone call from my dad, who had access to my bank account at the time. All he said at first was, “What the heck is going on!” I had no idea what he was talking about.
He explained to me that he received an email alert that my checking account was suddenly negative $1,000. My stomach dropped; I finally realized I had been conned. By me depositing that check into my account, I had given my “employer” access to it. My dad instructed me to immediately go back to the bank, and explain that the check was counterfeit. I did just that, and the teller jumped into action, reported the check to the Federal Trade Commission, and was able to restore the money that was stolen from me. Had my dad not contacted me before I wired the money, I would have really been out $1,000!
After I fixed what I had just undone, I decided to email this person who had conned me. I notified them that I now knew what they were up to, and that their check had been reported. Big surprise: I never received a reply.
In a way, I am glad this happened to me — it was a HUGE learning experience. Every young person new to the money world should be aware of these types of scams, and should trust their gut if anything seems sketchy. These con artists target college students and young adults, because they know they are naïve — just like I was. I guess I can file this experience under “Lessons Learned the Hard Way.”
Rebecca lives in Albuquerque. She is an Event Coordinator for the University of New Mexico.
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