You must actively take safeguards to control your money and hold reign over your checking and savings accounts and be vigilant about securing your personal information.
I think of myself as a savvy person fully engaged in communication and creating a successful career as a self-employed author and freelance writer. In this tough economy, like everyone else I am continually trolling for viable work and decent pay. A few weeks ago though, I became prey for not one, but two, Internet scamming jobs. Yes, you could probably call them “phishing” and I was the phish.
Anyway, I’d like to give you the benefit of my experience. The first company established themselves as a dating service. They advertised for editors who could work on their communications. Being an expert at letter writing and business correspondence, I was eager. I checked out their website, it looked legitimate. The email they sent me had a St. Petersburg, Russia address (I had assumed it was their headquarters). They sent me letters that seemed to be broken in translation. I deciphered them as best I could, creating correct syntax, tense, and sentence structure. I liked the work about was earning about $40/day.
Soon, it just seemed to be going nowhere, was too easy, and I noticed the people corresponding with me didn’t use names. It was always the anonymous “Dating Service.” Then I did some research on the Internet and found a couple sites where other writers talked about similar experiences. The letters they had received were the same as the ones I had gotten. They claimed that they had finally surmised that the correspondence would lead to moving money. Sending funds to others through an account set up by, who else? You. It was a money laundering operation, allegedly, and I promptly left. (No one bothered to pay me for four days work either: argh!)
The second experience was in response to an ad for a “mystery shopper.” It seemed innocuous enough, the company would send you funds, and you would visit a Western Union in your immediate area, and use their services. While you were making the transaction, you were supposed to make comments on the quality of the location, the service rendered, the demeanor of the employees—all legitimate functions I thought.
Then came the hook. Michael McDowell, the man who corresponded by email, suggested I set up a “free” Citibank account so that his company could deposit the funds for transfer purposes. And he was so helpful, there was a live link right there to the bank, with instructions on how to apply. Okay, I think the point was to get you to share information, get comfortable with the new account, and then get wiped out one day down the road. And I believe I didn’t do anything stupid with Mr. Michael but I changed my checking account that week just in case. (And what a pain it is doing that!)
So. What have we learned? Both of these businesses had nice looking websites with viable links and contact information, appearing very business ready.
Here are some tips:
• If someone approaches you with work and it involves setting up a bank account, forget it. There is no reason to go into a mutual banking situation with a real business.
• Always be able to have a phone number for the principals you work with and call it to make sure.
• Make certain that you have access to your own bank account online. Register and get your password and be able to get into your own account at any hour in order to monitor it for suspicious activity.
• Make sure that when you enter any site it has a “Verisign Secured” seal or logo. This means the site has trusted communications and commerce.
• If you are going to be shopping online, look for two things. In the URL locator line a secure site has: https —it’s the “s” that’s important. The other feature is: before you input any information about your address, contact info or credit card number, look at the bottom of the screen for a lock. It is an icon that looks exactly like a key-lock. If it’s not there, don’t proceed.
It’s up to you to keep your eyes open. In today’s economy, the incidences of fraud are growing at an amazing pace and to repair credit, lose funds, or become a victim is so much extra work and stress in an already stressful world. Be aware.