Being the victim of fraud is one of the most excruciating pains for the psyche. There’s not a moment that passes when you don’t think of yourself as stupid and dumb (probably the very same thing) for falling for it. Especially when the tells were there.
I am a marketing professional. I like to think I’m pretty keen on knowing when something smells rotten. But it was the perfect storm, so let me tell you about it so perhaps you’ll recognize the signs a lot faster than I did.
How I Was The Victim of Fraud
A hacked LinkedIn account is where it all started. The offer to be a mystery shopper came through a LinkedIn account of a friend of mine. The invitation was to earn $300 for each assignment; there was an email address of a company ‘Best Mark Services’ with a name ‘Dana Baker.’ The email was the company url. I scanned it quickly without too much concern for the punctuation.
I got really busy and forgot about it and then I replied to the email given in the invitation, “Hi, Dana, is this a legit offer?” And, ‘she’ confirmed that it was the ‘real deal.’
About a week went by and a cashier’s check for $1500 arrived with the assignment on Wal-Mart stationery. I was to buy 3 Wal-Mart pre-paid Visa cards and send images of the front and back back to Dana Baker.
So, I had money in my account to clear the check, but it was an official cashier’s check and looked and felt right. I withdrew the money and went off to buy the cards all the while reporting on the experience and the check-out person and the time through the line, etc.
I sent the images of the cards to them. The next day, my bank sent an email that the cashier’s check was fraudulent. That sinking sensation began in earnest. I called my bank and learned the truth, and then I called the attorney general.
5 Reasons Why I Was The Victim Of Fraud
1. I did not carefully look at the invitation for punctuation. One of the tells I have seen is poor punctuation; a lot of the letter ‘i’ are not capitalized.
2. I was moving too quickly; I was extremely busy, and I was also thinking of some fun, easy cash for my Kidlet’s Christmas. As a marketer, the assignment appealed to me as I’ve always thought it would be fun to do that kind of thing.
3. While I initially asked for a credibility check to confirm the assignment, I didn’t follow through to properly fact check.
4. When the check came, it was very good. My bank confirmed it; very official. I thought the cards I was buying were going to be for my next assignment. I played right along and was thinking like a marketer the whole time.
5. I trust. Purely and simply, I don’t live in a world of mistrust or vindictive behavior. Even at my age, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt because I rarely meet people who want to take me down. When I do, I’m horrified and now? I’m fully demoralized and humiliated and embarrassed that I could be the victim of fraud of this intense and intricate nature.
What You Can Do To Avoid Being Victimized
When I spoke with the Ohio Attorney General to report the matter, I was informed that they get about 200 of these incidents weekly. In fact, the week prior, a professional couple lost $40,000 to a scam (the husband said don’t do it and the wife did it). I suppose my ‘paltry’ $1500 pales in comparison to those folks’ loss, but money is money is just money.
- Read the fine print. And, a one LinkedIn connection asked, “Did you get a contract?” (Good point, Smart Ass.)
- Call your state’s attorney general to verify accuracy of an offer such as this. They are up on all the fraud occurring in your state, and they can smell a rat faster than a spider spins a web.
- Speaking of webs, take a look at the origination of the checks and overnight mail. Turns out, the two cashier’s checks I received in the two overnight pouches each came from four different states. And, there were three emails being use in the scam for the same person. It’s an intricate and well-spun web these guys operate from.
- Be suspicious. I wasn’t. They played into my profession, and they played me for a trusting fool. In fact, they asked me my profession in the original email. I realize that with all the horrors throughout the world and the evil being done to others, I want to believe. I watched CNN Heroes last night, and there is a whole world of good happening right now; we just need to seek it and the people who are doing it.
- Lastly, as a Facebook connection said, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.”
Hindsight is always 20/20. I see the tells now where I didn’t before. For a variety of reasons beyond those listed here, I learned a terribly difficult lesson. As I was drying my tears, I posted right away on Facebook and LinkedIn about the situation knowing it was the right thing to do to possibly help others spot the rat.
At least the attorney general let me know that there is a wide network in place helping to educate the elderly about these scammers. The plots are so intricate and intelligent, that they will continue to win unless we can all be vigilant together. Please join me in sharing your stories because this is not a one-off situation. Too many people have let me know they’ve been scammed a lot in the past, and it breaks my heart.
I don’t have the answers, just the experience to share that may give you pause to stop short.