Scam alert! Job offer that was not what it appeared to be
Currently, I am an unemployed father of 5 (4 at home), doing what I can to try to make money. I have been looking for work-at-home opportunities that can support my family, while saving money on things like commuting, meals and daycare for the kids. So far, not a lot has come along that I have been successful at, but I am continuing to try while still searching for at-home and out-of-the-home opportunities.
One of these opportunities came along not too long ago, and it seemed like the ideal opportunity for me! It would pay a steady and competitive salary, plus commissions, and I could do it from home. I was desperate and eager, so I started the process towards signing up, registering, and filling out the application and job offer letter as soon as possible!
Something smells fishy...
I was going through the process and was happy that I had been accepted as an Operations Assistant for this company. I had looked the company up and was pleased that it was a reputable and real company, so I continued with the knowledge I would soon be working and making an income while being at home for the kids! The information that had been sent seemed to make sense to me, so I didn't worry too much about the little voice in my head that was warning me it might not be as real as it seemed.
Then came the last email that stated they needed bank information in order to process payments. The reason I had to provide it was because it was too expensive and inconvenient to setup a bank account for each person to use during the probationary period. This seemed a little odd, but after checking out the company, I was fairly certain that it made sense to me.
I decided to setup a new account and went with ING Direct. During the setup process, one of the questions was, based on anti-money laundering legislation, to indicate if any third party would benefit from the account's activities. That was the first thing that made me question it - I would be "processing payments" by accepting them, then forwarding 95% to the company. When I asked for the information on the specifics of the requested information, I received no immediate reply (all other correspondence had been fairly rapid in response time).
Then, I looked at the last email I had received and noted that after sending the bank information (no account number, but account holder and the name of the bank), that I would then receive a call for an interview.
This struck me as odd, since in the previous email, I had been told I was accepted (since I had signed and returned the offer letter). So, if I was already accepted, why did they require an interview at THIS stage?
Something definitely started to smell fishy!
Thorough investigation is key!
I checked on the email address that the emails had been coming from. The company was reported to be Synovate Business Consulting. When I had looked up the company, I found that it was a research and marketing company that was a subsidiary of Ipsos. This seemed to be a legitimate company and so I had not questioned further. However, the domain for the email address was synovateconsulting.com. When I checked this site, I found what appeared to be a fully functioning and seemingly legitimate business website with information on the company, and a Careers section that had the same job I was applying for.
Still, something felt wrong. When I started thinking about what I know of Ipsos, they are marketing and research, but more along the lines of surveys and such, determining market information from various demographics in various fields. I couldn't think of anything that would require payments from clients. So needing my banking information seemed less and less likely. Also, from what I had read, Synovate Business Consulting was now a wholly owned subsidiary of Ipsos, and was no longer it's own separate entity.
So I dug a little deeper. Looking at the website, the English seemed stuttering and incomplete, almost like it had been written by a non-native English speaker. I examined the emails, and noticed that they too seemed to try to be business oriented, but were failing at a basic level. I started to worry more and more that someone was trying to scam me!
I decided then, to look up the logo for Synovate Business Consulting. I found it was three circles, very close to each other in red, orange and yellow. The logo on the website for this job was also red, orange, and yellow, but it was three flames, not circles. This was a BIG hint to me that this was not a job site, but a scam site.
Checking out various sites online, you can usually identify scams by their information, or by the company name, if already found. I found one other person had reported this same company (though, they also retracted the complaint since no money had been lost). Still, that was the only instance I could find, so I needed MORE proof!
My last ditch efforts to uncover this were the whois information of the website (you can find this from whois.net). When I looked that up, I found that the site was registered to a company in Malaysia, and had only been setup on the day that I found the ad and responded to it. Finally, I copied a sentence from the site and found 8 other sites that all had IDENTICAL information on them! The only differences were the names of the sites/companies, and the title of the job being offered.
Don't I feel the fool, now!
Yes, after discovering all of this, I felt quite foolish, and dejected that I had nearly been scammed. I had announced on Facebook that I had a job that I would soon be starting and I received lots of positive feedback! Now, I had to retract that and tell everyone how I had nearly been scammed. ME! I am the one always pointing out scams and linking them to snopes.com or whatever site I find them on. This one almost got me, and I was embarrassed that it had!
So why am I telling people? Because I almost got scammed, and I don't want other people falling into this trap! It was scary that someone who is usually so careful and able to spot a trap like this was almost taken in and had their identity and possibly money stolen! I wanted to warn others who may be less savvy and more trusting in others to be extremely careful! I had been told that it looked too good to be true (thanks mom! ;-)), and it definitely was.
So, my conclusion in all of this is: don't be afraid to be over-zealous in your investigation of a company to ensure that they are indeed as good as they sound! I let my guard down, and almost got burned!
For the sites that are all a part of this scam, here is the list of sites that I found by searching for a single sentence from the site on Google: