Ignoring the signs of online scams

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Where I’m from, online scams are something everyone knows about—the young, the old the—everyone.

We all know, or think we know, that if someone contacts you and asks you to send them money, that you’re most likely being scammed. If you won the a draw but don’t remember entering, it’s probably a scam. If you’re offered a job that seems too good to be true then most likely, it is also a scam.

These are the most common red flags that we are told not to trust. As an international student from the islands, where scamming isn’t a thing of the past, I would have never imagined falling victim to any of these cons.

A month into a well-deserved summer, I started the process of job hunting. Error number one: summer job hunting should begin as early as the New Year. If you wait too long, like everyone else, you’ll be out of school, printing 50 resume copies, attending numerous group interviews and receiving many disappointing emails.

After failing in the first month and a half of looking for a job, I met with a few employment agencies to make sure my resume was well structured and met Canadian standards.

Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Needless to say, they all thought my resume was pretty damn good and I would be called sooner or later. Weeks went by and I was on websites like Indeed and jobs.ca everyday applying for jobs that I could position myself into. I couldn’t figure out why the employers wouldn’t call or email me a job offer.

It was only a matter of time that depression would get the better of me. I was on the verge of giving up when I received an email from a company that was interested in employing me.

This was my second error. I didn’t remember applying to this company, but after so many applications, I thought, well maybe I did.

I checked and double checked their website. I read reviews—most of which pointed out that it was a scam, but desperation knows no boundaries, so I overlooked it.

The email was poorly structured, but all the necessary documents that one would need to become a member of a team in the Bitcoin trading job seemed legit. To the poorly structured email, I thought, well, maybe it’s because the employer wasn’t a native English speaker. Desperation again.

So, we went on exchanging emails, so I could learn about the job as a Bitcoin trader.

All it required was that I be the person in between online businesses and their customers. From this, I would receive a percentage of the total number of exchanges I would have carried out during the days as well as a bi-weekly standard salary.

It was too good to be true. By this time, I had seen all the red flags, but because of my desperation, I just wished it were true.

My first assignment came the following Monday. I received a request for transaction from my bank and I approved it. The sender withdrew the transaction and when I told this to my ‘supervisor,’ she explained that there would be an inquiry, but in the mean time I was to stay put and she’d get back to me.

So I stayed put.

She then advised me of another transaction and when I checked my online bank account, the funds appeared to be there.

Finally, I could breathe. It wasn’t a scam because the bank wouldn’t have shown this in their records if the funds were fraudulent.

However, I learned otherwise through sheer embarrassment. I went to the bank the same day, eager to withdraw the funds, convert it to bitcoins and send it off to the receiver. My true panic started after speaking with the teller, when she informed me that my account would be placed on hold and I should return the next day to speak to the bank manager.

I was horrified. I went home and sunk myself into regret and depression, cutting myself off from the world. I made one phone call to the police department responsible for fraud and after detailing my experience, they warned me to stay put, to wait on the bank to call, as the bank would be doing the investigation.

I was so ashamed. I was so embarrassed. I knew better, I swore I did. All the red flags were there. I saw them, but I covered my eyes.

After no phone calls and no police knocking on my door, I mustered up the strength to go back to the bank, but this time, I went to the location where I had initially opened the account.

I went in, started my story and walked out with not only my account no longer on hold, but assurance that it could have happened to anyone. It is up to us be very careful when looking for jobs and be aware of all the strings that these scammers use to pull us into their webs of deceit and bankruptcy.

I didn’t owe the bank anything because I didn’t use the money they had deposited into my account, the only smart move I made during that dilemma.

But I sure learned my lesson. Scamming has taken many forms in the digital age. As concerning as it may seem, when dealing with people through the internet, even if their intentions seem pure, one should always have their guard up. Becoming a victim of fraud is easier than you can imagine.

 

 

 

 


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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.