I was almost scammed.
I recently faced the possibility of being in some real trouble all because I was temporarily desperate for income and thought I was smarter than I really was.
I’m not proud of almost becoming another statistic on the Federal Trade Commission’s long list of people who are taken advantage of on a daily basis. I’m actually quite embarrassed. Not as embarrassed as I was the moment I realized what was going on. I’m past that level of embarrassment and rightfully so, because truth be told, I’m a very intelligent woman who actually researches things before delving into them. It’s actually something I’ve had to train myself to do. Otherwise, with my bipolar brain, I’d be in hot water!
So how in the world did I almost lose my identity, what little money I had saved up, and my dignity to boot? I’ll tell you.
Last month there were some glitches that occurred at my normal place of employment, which caused me to be without work for almost a month. I knew I had to find something to replace a fraction of my income to get me by until those issues were resolved. Writing articles for others has paid me a little bit and so I figured with all this time on my hands, why not write full time and use the endless hours in the day to make some kind of living.
I started out of course writing some original pieces for the websites I write for and then looked into writing mills. Places where a writer puts up a small bio and lists their qualifications. One in particular was and has continued to be profitable for me and really helped me pay off some smaller bills that were due right away.
Of course either my career would have to get back on track or some bigger writing gig would have to come along eventually because there are just so many 200 word articles you can write for seven cents a word before you lose your mind.
I joined a company named Thumbtack. (I refuse to link to their website here because they were not helpful in any way when it came down to what happened with me, and probably hundreds of other unsuspecting freelancers.)
I immediately started receiving text and email notifications of people needing freelance work done. Of course I had listed I was only available via internet and telephone, or telecommuting if you will. I submitted a few proposals but lost out on those until one day last week I finally had one accepted. The position was for: editing; data-entry; customer service; proposal writing, etc… My first red flag should have been that I had proposed twelve dollars an hour and this job paid thirty dollars and hour. Granted, I thought this was weird, but I continued on and waited until I received an email stating they wanted to do an online interview.
It was at this point that I found out the name of the company: Emdeon. I WILL put their link here for two reasons:
- I hope they somehow find this article and read it and get in touch with me; you’ll see why soon.
- They are a real company and seem awesome to work for. I know this because I researched the shit out of them immediately and thought the job God’s had finally shone down upon me!
I couldn’t believe the offer of employment! Yes, I know, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. In this case though, Emdeon really does offer their employees who get hired on, every single thing I was told I would receive. I went on Glass Door, which is a company review site, and literally read hundreds of reviews from this company about the amazing benefits package, great work atmosphere, and wonderful fellow co-workers. I also read some not so glowing reports, but still I didn’t see anything that alerted me to fraud of any kind.
A day after being notified that I was a candidate for an online interview I was given the name and email address of a woman named Suzanne Sword who was with human resources and would be conducting the interview and subsequently hiring me. Fingers crossed right? After emailing her with an interview ID number, I received an email within an hour asking me to join her the next morning on AIM (AOL instant messenger). Yes, even I thought that was curious, because who the hell uses AOL anymore?
Let me clarify. Some of the reviews I read stated that the company, Emdeon, outsources certain jobs to other countries, so I thought, hey maybe somebody in another country does the preliminary interviewing and that’s what they use for messaging.
(Bear with me ya’ll…it gets more interesting! Plus YOU REALLY NEED TO READ THIS!)
I joined Ms. Sword on AIM, after figuring out how to download that ancient program, and we began the interview. It took an hour and I was asked very normal questions that are asked during almost any interview.
- Why do you think you’re a good fit for our company?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me about a particular hurdle in your current or last job, that you overcame and would love to share!
- Do you see yourself being capable of being a regional manager for Emdeon in years to come?
You get the point.
I was even, get this, asked multiple questions on financial issues such as stock market trends, what a general ledger was, a balance sheet was, why it was important to keep clients from having unpaid balances with Emdeon. THIS SHIT WAS DETAILED. It was not an extremely illiterate person asking me to immediately send money to a foreign bank account so that Prince Hakim-Magoogoo-Alajawan could get out of Nigerian prison! Get my drift? It seemed LEGIT.
At this point, even though Ms. Sword’s spelling was a bit off, she corrected herself 98% of the time, just like you and I do when autocorrect fucks with our text messaging. Besides, remember? I thought maybe this was an outsourced job and I actually thought this person was doing really well for English not being their native language.
Ms. Sword went over very explicit job details (all things I had read on the actual website) and also the benefits package (again, all things I had read on the website). Red flag? Yeah probably. I mean if I had access to that information, then so did everyone else.
I was told after an hour and fifteen minutes of interviewing, that my answers to the questions asked and the interview in it’s entirety would be forwarded to HR and that I should await an email to find out if I was hired or not.
The next morning I received an email with an acceptance letter attached. I was told that after reading over it, I was to print, sign, scan and email back to HR if I was willing to accept the position. Of course I did that shit! Can you imagine how much money I was going to make from home? Ms. Sword had also made me feel like a superhero! Telling me what a great job I’d done, all the while giving me virtual pats on the back.
Did I mention they were going to supply all the equipment for my home office and train me as well? No? Yeah they were.
To complete the hiring I needed to pass a background check. Everybody groan and whisper collectively…”Oh no she didn’t!” Yes. I gave her my SSN and my address.
I have since notified the FTC and all the major credit reporting agencies of this fraud and everyone is on alert. I did not give out any financial information.
The next step in the process was that Emdeon would be sending me a check via USPS or FedEx in the next two to three business days to cover the expenses for the equipment and installation at my new home office. How exciting! Generous and exciting! I was to notify her immediately of its arrival.
There. Right there. That demanding tone. That hadn’t been a part of our daily correspondence over the past several days. A little twinge hit my stomach. I ignored it and went on to work at my regular job that morning. All day, her tone in our last exchange kept popping up like a nagging zit on the end of my nose, but I still pushed it down because I had work to do.
As soon as I got home that night though from work? I did a final google search for “Suzanne Sword Emdeon”. What I saw almost made me puke.
How could this happen to me? I quickly went back to look at my emails. Yep. There is was! The “emdeon dot org” at the end of every single email. How did I not catch that!? How stupid could I be!?
I was so ashamed. I felt violated and pissed. I felt like I should be on the Dr. Phil show! I mean you’ve seen those men and women who give hundreds of thousands of dollars to lovers who they’ve never even met! Those people are probably friends with this person that had been scamming me!
I didn’t contact “Ms. Sword” though. It was hard, but I waited at least two days. In those two days I Googled as much information as I could with every key word imaginable, so many searches I can’t even begin to list them here, about these types of scams. I just couldn’t believe that somebody would be so elaborate in a scam for such a small amount of money. It was probably going to be around $4,000 that they eventually would have asked me to cash and then send to their “vendors”.
If it’s any consolation THAT would have tipped me off right there. The check is sitting at the post office as of right now I think. I still haven’t retrieved it. When I do I’ll be sure to share the picture with you.
Yesterday, I contacted “Ms. Sword”. I’ll let you read the screen shots of our conversation. You’ll see in the end that this person thinks it’s funny that they almost suckered me in. You’ll also notice if you read between the lines they eventually offer me a job scamming others with them. Disgusting.
So what would have happened if I had not caught on, done that final search? What if I had been so desperate in my attempt to have this job to pay my bills, that I cashed that fake check and sent it on?
- I would have been in so much trouble with my bank when the check was cashed and returned insufficient. I don’t have four grand to cover ANYTHING in my account.
- I would have never had a job with them even if I had continued ignorantly with the scam. They would have gotten their money and then more than likely ceased all communication with me. Never to be heard from again.
I did contact Thumbtack customer service and let them know about this. They had the balls to acknowledge that the account of the original person who contacted me, plus around 20 more accounts from the same group, had been deactivated due to being a possible scam. Their balls grew even bigger when I asked them what their policy was in helping their freelancers when issues like this arose.
Her response was, “Oh we notify you immediately if you’ve used credits bought with us that it is a possible scam, but since your proposal was a one time free proposal for being a new subscriber we didn’t notify you.” Bullshit. I told her that as well. That is why I refuse to ever work with them again and will not promote them by linking to them here. If you, after reading this, feel like that is a freelance company you would like to do business with, then by all means, do so. I wouldn’t suggest it though.
You see, smart people get taken advantage of everyday. I’m not Einstein or even close, but I should’ve known better.
I’m writing this in hopes that I can show you that not every scam out there is blatantly obvious. Please be careful. I still believe in good things happening to people.
I still believe that even some things that are too good to be true, may in fact really be legit, but I’m also a believer now more than ever in researching these things as much as possible.
Pirates really DO exist.