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One of the perils of trying to find work, especially when responding to listings through Craigslist, is the potential to falling prey to a scam artist. These unscrupulous individuals have no qualms in preying upon those desperate in their search for a livelihood, many of whom have gone a year, or two, or three, without work, thereby accumulating a mountain of debt, both current and defaulted. People who just want to keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and their name clean. And predators of the internet that some scamsters are, they smell out the desperate like a Piranha does blood in water, and descend upon them with promises of fortune, of a light at the end of their dark tunnel.

Many people fall victim to these schemes, for they are many, and often quite clever. The Internet Crime Complaint Center fortunately posts alerts on these, but they are not well known to most denizens of the net, nor are their alerts by any means a compendium of all the potential pitfalls out there. Their September 1st alert covers a Mass Joinder Lawsuit scam, one for phony auctions on PS3 bundles, and two alerts concerning e-mail address fraud. None of these address the current state of employment scams. To date, I have encountered several various cons being perpetrated against job-seekers. Two of these have appeared on the IC3’s October 17th alert.

In one, which is very common and has many fronts, the job seeker responds to an ad for a job. It could be a radio spot for a mystery shopper, a Craigslist ad for a personal assistant, one of many ads for work-at-home jobs, or as I encountered, responses to tutoring advertisements. Once on the hook, the conman responds and informs the job-seeker that they will be paid up front, but that the check sent to them will be in excess of what they are owed. The candidate is instructed to deposit the check into their account and then wire the excess to a third party. Unfortunately for the victim, the check sent to them is inevitably a bad check – either phony, forged, or stolen, and the funds will be completely inaccessible to them. The “excess” they then wire to the third party come directly out of their own bank account, and not from any false funds supposedly deposited via the fake check.

Many other scams require that the job-seeker pay money up front for consideration for the position. This could be “fees” required for modeling shoots, “contact” or “contract” fees for being connected to an existing position, or many other things. In general, if you are seeking employment, and the employer asks for ANY money from you for any reason, you should be immediately suspicious. Remember, they are the employer, you the potential employee. It is they who should be paying you, not the other way around. A particular such scam I encountered last year involved an individual contacting me offering a teaching position in China, but in order for him to seal the deal, I was going to have to pay him a $500 signing fee, as well as pay for my airfare to China. Needless to say, I called him on his false felonious activity and left it at that.

One might wonder, what can we do about all these clear cut criminals taking advantage of the gullible and needy? Unfortunately, there is little one can do that will stop their activities in entirety, but there is something one can do to slow them down. It is called scambaiting, and it’s not something I recommend most people attempt on their own. To do so, you need to be very careful with your contacts with these individuals, with whom any communication puts you at risk. You must be able to outwit them and protect your own identity while doing so. What it entails depends on how far you’re willing to go, and how far you think you can safely go. For most people, if you are going to risk it, I would advise nothing more than just dragging out the contact with the scammer to waste as much as their time as you can before they catch on to what you’re doing. If you’re able to get information out of them, great, but most will be very vague in response to your questions, and any info they do give you will most likely be fake, anyway. But by no means should you ever attempt to meet these individuals in person, or actually go anywhere they ask. This will put you immediately in physical danger, and that’s just not the end result for which we’re looking.

My most recent foray into scam baiting was in response to a con I ran into on Craigslist through the employment section. I’d applied for an administrative assistant position, and the individual contacting me offered a $500 a week online-only at home job. He claimed to represent a company which he did not (after research I found the company was legit, he just didn’t work for them). The “job” entailed data entry and files management. He conducted a quick interview via IM that consisted of 8 questions, and “hired” me on the spot, making me “sign” electronically a conduct contract. When I asked for a W9 to fill out, he ignored the request. He stated that the position would require a multi-function printer and “softwares” which he refused to identify. These were to be bought through a third party vendor of the “company’s” choice, whom he also refused to identify.

He sent the check, which I now have in my possession, and which also turned out to be a forged check printed off a home printer onto generic check stationary, but using a very real business’s name, bank, and account number. Before depositing said check, I consulted with my bank to verify its veracity and then contacted the bank on the check. The account had been flagged for fraud, and they referred me to a security specialist, with whom I had a rather pleasant conversation. I’d been able to extract 3 address, 2 telephone numbers, 2 email addresses, and 3 names from this individual. One of which he has used multiple times online to perpetrate exactly this same fraud, only unfortunately on more gullible victims. One of the phone numbers turned out to be a Magic Jack phone number that has not yet been assigned. The other belongs to one of the three names, who is a beautician in Peoria, AZ. I honestly doubt that poor woman is actually involved in this con, but is instead merely another one of his victims.

I will be mailing the check to the bank’s security officer who will then be forwarding it to the FBI for fingerprinting. Hopefully they’ll be able to catch him with the information I provided.

With that, and this editorial, my involvement in this case will be coming to a close. There really is little else I can do. I’ve wasted as much of his time as I can, and I’ve extracted as much information from him as possible.

And for those who are curious, the individual is Henry Walker, and he frequently uses the Yahoo ID operatingdeskwalker to contact his victims. Avoid him.

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