It’s bad enough when I hear about people getting scammed after using online dating services. Now, there’s a new breed of fungus among us that prey on contract designers and consultants that work remotely.
One particular scammer targeted me through Angel List (angel.co), a website for startups, angel investors, job seekers and, apparently, scam artists. A person named Velma Anderson contacted me, via email, to request an interview with their “Senior Recruiter” who claimed to be Dianne Haven, with Flint Group, a large privately-owned company based in Luxembourg with offices in many parts of the world. The company is real, but both people are most likely fabricated.
Velma mentioned in the email that I was shortlisted for an online interview with Dianne Haven, through Google Hangouts, via chat only (red flag #1). I answered their questions and asked several of my own. After about 30 minutes, during which they claimed they were reviewing my answers with their senior staff, I was informed that I was a good candidate to work with them remotely. I asked about the next step in the process and they said they would send a form for me to sign, which they did.
The form was not the usual length, only three pages with large type, and specified employee relationship, compensation, and benefits. It also indicated a deadline, which I had already missed, since it initially went into my junk mail. I notified Dianne regarding the fact that I had missed the deadline and she assured me that it was fine (red flag #2).
Dianne stated that she would be sending me a check to cover the cost of office supplies. It arrived via overnight FedEx in the amount of $6863.46. I was instructed to put the funds into my checking account, which I did. She kept sending me messages asking when the funds would be available. It took two days for the funds to clear, which is normal. When the funds were available, she told me that she had just spoken with the vendor’s manager, Mrs. Janet Roberts, and she needed the delivery to be completed by 4:30 pm that day. Dianne indicated that a senior designer, Mr. Clyde Davis, will be coming along with the vendor to deliver the office supplies. That was interesting since Flint Group doesn’t have a location in Florida (red flag #3).
The whole process seemed very strange because most companies will send you the laptop and other peripherals so they can control the security and cost. Also, there were several items on the equipment list that I would never need. When I asked Dianne why she didn’t send the check directly to the vendor, her words became defensive and she gave an excuse about how, after a period of 12-16 weeks, the office supplies would automatically become mine and the receipts/invoice must carry my name to show that I made the order from the (unnamed) vendor (red flag #4).
Dianne stated that my contact information was forwarded to the vendor’s manager and they would be contacting me in “a few” to talk about the delivery. The phone number that would be calling me had a California area code. I never received the call.
Now it gets interesting:
Dianne declared that the vendor would only accept payment in the form of postal money orders or cash. Since she sent me the check, she wanted me to go to my post office and purchase six money orders in increments of $1000 each and the seventh for the remainder, with my debit card, made out to N&J Acquisition & Holdings LLC. Then, I was to deposit the money orders in the nearest Bank of America with the account number that she finally disclosed. I checked online and there is no LLC listed in any state by that name (red flag #5).
I researched Dianne Haven’s name and saw a Linkedin profile. She was listed as a Human Resources Director at Flint Group and her location as Conway, Arkansas. There is a location for Flint Group in Arkansas, but it’s the only location without a phone number, so it’s not possible to call there. The profile looked bogus to me (red flag #6).
I called my bank and asked to speak with their fraud department, which they refer to as “Loss Prevention.” I spoke with a woman named Shannon and she was very helpful. She asked me to send her the entire conversation with Dianne Haven, told me to block her on Google Hangouts, and report the incident to the police. Not only did I do all of that, I also reported it to the Federal Trade Commission, online.
A real employer would never ask you to send money. Here are a few other details to look for:
- Does the email address end with the company’s name or is it really a gmail account?
- Is the check printed on the correct security paper and does it include the bank’s logo?
- Are you able to speak to a person or is your communication only through chat? (They may be located overseas)
You may think that you would never fall for a scam like this, but if these slimy people were not successful once in a while, they wouldn’t bother creating the deception. Although I was open to this opportunity in the beginning, I was fortunate that I had completed training with Insight Enterprises and recognized many of the red flags. The police officer mentioned to me that they can barely keep up with the scams – there are so many. I don’t like seeing anyone fall for a scam – please be careful out there.