In a world where COVID is rampant, not even the job scene is safe. I have been out of work since the middle of March. I lost two jobs on the same day. After a few months of debating the job market, I found an ideal concept. Remote job placement. I started looking into getting my insurance license and functioning through a home office.
But, I’ve wanted an office position, preferably in real estate. I have a background in both areas. I ended up coming across a perfect ad. A remote administrative assistant job to a real estate developer.
I applied for the position. He replied via text later that day. I’d read about more and more employers doing interviews over text. I thought nothing of it. At first.
He said all the right things. He asked all the appropriate questions. The interview took more than a day. He was with me step for step. I was so excited to have a chance to do what I love. Despite my willingness, he never performed a background check. I listed my references. I’d assumed he’d called them. I had been licensed by the state, to collect poker money. I had a proven track record in finances, sales, management and customer service. He told me that I was perfect for the job.
At first, the details were clear. Do his grocery shopping, content editing and drafting paperwork. I tried to do research on this man. I checked his phone number. Looked for Facebook. Searched into the company name that showed up in the job ad, as a professional e-mail address. His phone number was from California, but his ad stated the company was in Seattle.
He claimed he was a real estate developer. However, after looking into the company further, the Seattle company was an accounting firm. He claimed he was starting his own company.
After talking with him another day, I continued my research. I found a man, fitting the bill, who lived in California, at some point three years ago. Perhaps an explanation for the phone number. I still couldn’t find any social media.
The developer had his “IT man” contact me. They told me he needed remote access to my laptop. They needed to upload the company software. I had recently purchased a new laptop and had little information stored. My husband and I considered it an acceptable risk. We’ve learned in life, to always be precocious.
They told me I needed a bank account that was associated with his for frequent transfers. Once he found out my husband was a veteran, a USAA account was an option. Here is where some other force stepped in and saved my butt. While I was trying to create an account, they watched my computer. For a variety of reasons, I couldn’t create an account. I had to phone them, which prevented sharing my personal information over remote access. The process was delayed. I was to provide the details once I had them. The next move: obtain the account information of my personal account. They intended to transfer money for me to perform my job, while we waited.
My husband and I ended up using an old account we didn’t use anymore, to keep everything separate.
My husband said something offhanded that started the nuts and bolts going off in my head. Deposits of $10,000 was immediately flagged by the IRS. Unease started in earnest.
The next morning, I woke up to several missed calls from the employer. And one text. They were transferring $9000 to my account. My instructions were to book a hotel for a conference for 200 people, including a block off to stay in, and refreshments to last two days. He would give me a date later on. And he wanted it “near to me.”
Now, I live in a smaller parish, a half hour outside of New Orleans. Why would a Seattle real estate developer magically want a large conference, conveniently located where his REMOTE assistant lived? When I questioned him, he stated he wanted to test my capabilities.
All of this time, I expected a completely different gig. I expected more. Some sort of further vetting process. Who, in their right mind would hand a stranger $9000? I’d assumed a few hundred dollars, at most. Buy his milk. Keep his schedule.
My blood ran cold. This man had my account information. He had remote access to me.
When I demanded he stop the transaction, his story fell apart. I demanded more information. The name he gave me for a start-up company was a legitimate real estate firm in North Carolina. The website didn’t list his name anywhere. However, the company name was his last name.
I turned off my laptop and put it away. I needed to breathe; regroup. I stopped researching this man and started looking up scams.
And they were plentiful.
Assistants all over the USA and beyond, had fallen prey to this sick game. A few were as fortunate as me. People laundered tens of thousands of dollars to their “assistants.” The assistants took the money, and eventually sent some back. Or paid bills that weren’t genuine. And for a lot of people, when the hammer fell, it was on their heads. They went to jail. Or a thousand other horrible things.
I called the police. An officer came to my home, to go over everything. They confirmed my fears. Had I taken the money, who knew what would’ve happened. I called the bank and let them know. They recommended I close to account, to cut him off. I stopped taking his calls and texts.
In this life, often enough, too good to be true, is just that. These individuals have no qualms about using real information; just enough to confuse, to entice. Unfortunately, we live in a world that produces endless ways to scam and deceive. Just remember to use good sense. I certainly will.