It started innocuously enough. An email message that at first glance came from Indeed that said someone was interested in my resume. I was given a choice to accept or decline contact. The work outlined read thusly:
Our writers are responsible for taking article concepts and creating engaging, relatable content that will be posted to our website and shared on our various social media outlets. Writers should also be comfortable searching for high quality images to accompany their work. Among the content types our writers should be familiar with are listicles, how-to’s, video posts, recipes and long form articles. Applicants for this position should be self-starters who have excellent writing and proofreading skills,and who have a great sense of writing style.
Self-starters, who are motivated,
organized, dialed-in, and driven by deadlines
Enjoy being a part of a small-but-growing team and willing to be flexible and take on
a wide variety of tasks.
Willing to work soley from home
Experience with wordpress is a plus, as is experience with SEO.
Which is a pretty good description of what I like to do so I accepted. (No I didn’t notice the spelling error.) And it’s the same tone that many legit employers use. The vague specifics didn’t bother me because so many jobs are posted with just this kind of language.
I also didn’t notice that the email it was sent from is probably not a real Indeed email address.
Down the freelance writing job scam rabbit hole
I received an email message asking me to meet the HR rep on Google Hangouts. This didn’t seem to different from interviewing by Skype, so logged in.
That began a trip down a rabbit hole. We chatted and he began asking questions which seemed legitimate. For example, he explained, I’d actually be writing for the company’s clients and he asked, “how do you respond if the client wants something changed?” and “what if you don’t like what the client is asking for?”
I had no problem with the questions but I really began to wonder what was happening when he’d take up to 5 or 6 minutes to respond.
The next oddity was his explanation that the company would send me a check to deposit in my account so I could buy the computer they wanted me to have – it would come preloaded with software that would let them know how many hours I was working. I couldn’t, however, see how that would make them money. I was probably wrong as you shall see.
When I asked about pay, he quoted a fairly high hourly and explained I’d actually be an employee, with taxes taken out, vacations time given, etc.
The deal started to smell. I decided this was probably not real but since they’d approached me as a writer I wanted to see where it was going so… yes, so I could write about it.
When I asked for the company name he gave me one, and I couldn’t find it. More evidence of a probable scam.
He wanted, he said, to test my ability to follow instructions and had me send email to guess who – people who had posted their resumes on Indeed. He had me create an account with a specific name and then gave me a list of folks. I didn’t realize until later than the email I had received had probably been sent by someone like me, although I’m not totally sure about that.
I take it to the bank
When the check arrived I took it to my bank, actually my credit union, and asked some questions about how I would know when a check actually cleared. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was talking with the new manager and she quickly understood what was going on.
Asking if I minded if she checked on the check; she used her computer to discover at least two instances that said it was likely to be fraudulent. She then told me she wanted to call the credit union’s fraud department and asked permission to fax the a copy of the check. She also indicated she wanted to hang on to the check until she heard back. And she explained to me what the likely scam was – if had I deposited the check, I would have been told they made a mistake and been instructed to return some of the money… which would have left me in the hole when the check didn’t clear.
Just because a bank or credit union will issue you cash based on a check you deposit, doesn’t guarantee the check will clear – if you spend that money and it doesn’t clear, you’re on the hook for what you spent. I knew this which is why I asked the questions.
I got home and reported to the ‘HR’ guy that the bank had refused the check and ended the relationship. The bank manager called about half an hour later thanking me for being alert and confirming that it was really a fraud. They kept the check, but I don’t know if there will be any further investigation.
Noodling the experience
It seemed to me the fraudster was working awfully hard for small money. But if, as a friend suggested, the long delay in answering on hangouts was because the guy was working other people, I suppose it could add up pretty quickly.
I’ve also discovered the rather curious fact that since I wasn’t actually victimized, since I didn’t fall totally for the scam, it’s awfully hard to report. The FBI and others apparently want to get involved after someone’s lost money, not when they realize a scam is being attempted.
Another thing that had never occurred to me is that my resume is out there. What that means, unfortunately, is that I have to be careful when people contact me about it. It turns out that if you google something like how safe are resumes on indeed you’ll get a ton of answers saying you shouldn’t bother. And it not just Indeed. I just tried to delete my resume there and apparently all I can do is make it private. Be warned.
On the other hand, I’ve gotten more than a few good and even great clients from my professional website.
I’m glad I didn’t stop marketing for real writing work during the drawn out process of this scam and if something like this happens again I probably will end it sooner. I mean how many articles like this one about a freelance writing job scam can I write? Hopefully it will never happen again.
It turns out that if you google something like how safe are resumes on indeed you’ll get a ton of answers saying you shouldn’t bother.
Have you had anything similar happen? How do you protect yourself?
Write well and often,