Predators are everywhere. If we’re lucky, we aren’t targeted as their prey. Most of us believe that we are too savvy, too smart, or simply not gullible enough to fall for a scam, but the truth is that victims can be found everywhere. The realization that you’ve been duped is not only embarrassing; it also has an erosive effect on our ability to trust.
A couple of days ago, I applied for a position on Elance, a freelance contractor website. After being advised by the client that I had been selected to interview for the position, Elance de-listed their ad. Yes, folks, that should have been clue #1. I contacted Elance support and they advised me to skip the interview. After thinking about it, I figured that no harm could come from an interview.
Are you spotting a trend of denial here?
The interview was conducted via Yahoo chat. I was surprised that it was chat only and not voice or video – or simply over the phone – but I went along. The job description was vague as were the answers to many of my questions. I was given an assignment to write a paper. What they were looking for seemed more like a request for a blog post than an assessment of my abilities. It wasn’t a difficult task, so I wrote the paper and submitted it with a long list of questions about the company, their hiring process, and their use of Yahoo Email rather than a branded Email account.
You’re probably thinking, “Run away, Ray! Don’t be a victim!”
Throughout this process, I Googled the company they claimed to represent, but could find no negative information. It was an innocuous container company with good earnings and no Internet hate directed in their direction.
This morning, we were scheduled to chat again, and my “trainer” was eager to move on to assignment #2. I indicated that I would prefer that she address my questions before moving on. She said, “Okay,” but her answers remained evasive.
They were sending me a check to purchase equipment. I said that that seemed like a ludicrous way to go about it and that, if this was their practice, they could do better by buying in bulk and shipping the equipment. When I mentioned that I hadn’t been asked what my current office set-up was, and that I had no idea what they wanted me to purchase, she provided a list: desk, laptop, 4-in-1, printer/scanner/fax/copier, a bar code printer and cards (which I searched for and found costs about $2,000), accounting software, and a number of other items.
The check would arrive tomorrow.
“Are you okay with that?” she asked.
That’s when I realized that I had been Googling the wrong thing. It wasn’t the company that I should have been questioning – as they probably don’t even know what’s going on – it was the process that was suspect. I quickly found an explanation of the scam.
They “accidentally” send you a check for much more than the price of the items that are to be purchased, then quickly ask you to wire them back the difference. By the time the check bounces, you’re out-of-pocket for the purchases and the funds that were returned, if you were gullible enough to actually send a wire.
It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it happens all of the time. That’s why scams and con artists will always be around. It’s a profitable occupation for those who have no soul.
I ended the conversation.
Being unemployed or underemployed, as is my case, can play with your mind. As you explore each new opportunity, you must remind yourself to be patient, confident, wary, and remain true to yourself. Reacting as if desperate, even if the situation is a desperate one, can only lead to trouble. Trust your instincts.
Don’t be a chump.