Phone scam alert.

I recently received a scary-sounding voicemail that went something like this:

Hello. I’m calling in regards to an urgent matter and confirm the delivery of documents. This is time sensitive and extremely important. Please call the following number immediately (number removed). Once again, the number is (number removed). Thank you.

I looked up the referenced phone number and found this site where its users reported that this message reeks of a scam. I found it a bit odd myself as the caller left no contact information other than the phone number. The identities of the caller and the company shall forever remain a mystery although their intentions are anything but beneficial. This message can be safely disregarded and deleted.

Working for First Choice Technical Support.

Late last year I received a letter from the Department of Justice concerning First Choice Technical Support, which happens to be one of my former employers. This letter informed me that First Choice was under investigation for fraud and invited me to come forward as a witness. I did not respond to the letter as I was with First Choice for only three days and therefore had no information about the alleged fraud. In fact, this was the first time I heard about it.

I first found about First Choice from Craigslist, where I saw their ad for a tech support agent. I sent my resume in and got the interview that resulted in me getting hired on the spot. I was informed that my work schedule would be Tuesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. I had mixed feelings about working those hours but I was desperate enough for a job to accept the offer anyway.

My employment began with some on-the-job training that took place during the day, where I was paired with a fellow agent to watch him work. He was connected remotely to the customer’s computer and ran various tools to clear it of junk files and unwanted programs. I would later notice that all the tools the agents used are freely available on the Web, which I listed in a later post.

In order to allow the agents to connect to the customer’s computer, the customer had to go to the First Choice web site to download some software that allowed the agents to connect remotely to that computer. This became known as a session, and there were multiple agents working on multiple sessions during their shifts. When all the work was done, the agent would call the customer back for a recap of the services performed as well as a summary of the bill.

By all accounts, it seemed like a legitimate company to work for. During one of my breaks, I met one of the assistant managers who was clearly excited about the way First Choice was growing and saw a very bright future ahead. He even assured me that I picked a good company to work for.

When I finished my third day of training, the hiring manager called me into his office and told me I was being let go. He didn’t think I was catching on fast enough, which was a bit of a surprise considering I was already working some of the sessions on my own. But that’s as far as I got. One more day and I too would have become one of the fraudsters, a thought that fills me with guilt and shame even to this day. It also would have left an indelible stain on my career.

But none of that matters now. First Choice was later found to be a tech support scam and forced out of business. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I were still working there.

Facebook scam in progress.

laughsocksoff

There is a scam floating around on Facebook capable of ensnaring even the most cautious of users like myself. I was on Facebook this morning browsing through the latest postings when I spotted what appeared to be an innocent link to some image claiming to hide something wrong. When I clicked on it, I was taken to a site called laughsocksoff.com where I was warned that the image might be inappropriate for visitors under 13, so I had to log in with my Facebook account to verify my age. After granting it some permissions to my account, I had to then “like” the “Laugh And Smile” page in order to view the image. After studying the image and finding nothing wrong, I did a search for Google to see if there was a solution and that’s when I realized I had fallen victim to a scam that collects information from my profile. Sure enough, it had posted a link to my wall containing a different image to lure another victim. I immediately changed my Facebook password, removed the permissions to laughsocksoff.com, unliked the “Laugh and Smile” page and removed the link from my timeline. I’m hoping this concludes the matter. Don’t let this happen to you.

A message from the IRS.

Just recently I got a very bizarre message on my answering machine supposedly from the IRS. The female robotic voice sounded like someone was using some cheesy text-to-speech software. I transcribed the message the best I could so I could post it here.

Been trying to reach you. This call is a final notice from IRS, Internal Revenue Services. The reason for this call is to inform you that IRS is filing lawsuits against you. To get more information about this case on file, please call us today on our department, 206-801-1950, I repeat, 206-801-1950. Thank you.

This message sounded scary at first but the more I listened to it, the dumber it got. Here’s the “Internal Revenue Services” leaving a message on my answering machine regarding its intent to sue me without sending me anything in writing. I wrote down the phone number and looked it up online and did not see any indication this was a legitimate contact number for the IRS. This sounds more like a scam run by those with too much time on their hands. I’m going to delete this message and move on with my life as I have more important matters to attend to without having to worry about some fictitious lawsuit. End of story.

Introducing Natalija.

I was checking my e-mail tonight when I found this in my Inbox:

Hey.How are you doing? How your mood? My name is Natalija. I wish to get acquainted with you. Yours email to me a distance in marriage agency. Write to me more likely. We could is better learn each other. Write to me about itself.

Please answer to my personal mail box: [e-mail address removed]

Write to me more likely.
Bye bye

The following photo was attached:

IMG_14543453

I became very suspicious of the very broken English in this e-mail, so I Googled the sentence “Write to me about itself” and sure enough this appears to be a romance scam in progress. I’m certain there are more constructive ways to meet new people than e-mailing them out of the blue. She must be desperate.

Just for kicks I’m going to respond to this e-mail to play along with these scammers. This is the mutilated reply I will send:

I like picture. I like talk to itself. Where on map you lives? I flies says hello.

I will send the response from an e-mail account I plan on getting rid of soon, so in case this gets out of hand I can just delete the account. I will update this post with what happens next.

UPDATE: I just sent the e-mail containing the above text and so far it has not yet bounced. I think my reply may have gone through. Now to wait for a response from the scammers.

UPDATE: I didn’t get a response until one week later. Here’s what it read:

Hello! wow! I am happy to see your answer!
I saw your profil in dating agency in our city. They have helped me with a choice of the profil. So, I have written you 🙂 Sometimes I feel very lonely and when I, after work go on road home I think as me to spend evening. I have houses the small piano and very much I like to play music, more often I improvise, my music is not perfect, but to me delivers a sheer pleasure!
I am lonely now and I admit, that I have got tired of loneliness and monotony and I very much would like a variety, or adventures!
You are very a pity that far from me! But I plan to visit soon USA. My brother lives there. When I will solve questions with my visa, I will be ready to this travel 🙂
I am 32 years old. I am single I have never been married.
Tell me please about yourself, about your girl, about the first love, about feelings… Of course, If you want…
Now I live in a small city. If you look at a Ukraine map, try to find, And you can find my city – Donetsk!
I send you also more photos 😉 Natalija.

She did send more pictures of herself in various poses and sounds sincerely interested in meeting me. But none of this is making sense. I sent my response from a different e-mail address with no indication of my name and she responds with the revelation that she found my profile in some dating agency in her hometown of Donetsk. This sounds more like a generic response to anyone who e-mails her.

This is as far as I’m going with this. This is no way to meet someone and I know better than to respond to an e-mail sent out of the blue by a total stranger. I have deleted the e-mail account I used to send my response and won’t send any more correspondence as I think will only encourage this person to pull me deeper into whatever scam they’re running. The next time I get an e-mail like this, I’m deleting it as soon as I get it. End of story.

Yet another job scam.

Recently I got this e-mail from what appears to be a promising job opportunity:

Employment Opportunity
Admin Assistant - Customer Service - Data Entry
An Equal Opportunity Employer
Hot Jobs
Job Interview
Hello Michael
We are looking for talented clerical and office professionals for administrative assistant, data entry and customer service positions. These opportunities are full and part-time If interested, please respond for immediate consideration.
Relevant experience is required. Office equipment and major software package familiarity is preferred. Qualified candidates must also be able to use MS Word software program.
As a recruiter for Healthcare Employment Inc. (a national healthcare provider), I am seeking full-and part-time, administrative assistants, customer service, data entry and medical transcriptionists. We are committed to providing a work environment where you can grow and be respected for the professional you are.
After reveiwing your resume we are interested. We are extending to you a Job Interview.
If you are not yet qualified, we'll provide tuition FREE training that you'll need to become qualified. Once you meet our criteria, which will be defined for you before you begin, you will be certified and can begin to work for us.
The pay is good. After completing the program, people seem to do quite well and as you get more experience, people seem to earn $1,000 to $2,000 a month working about 20-30 hours a week. Some make $3,000-$4,000 a month, full-time 40-48 hours a week (This does not happen overnight). If you want to work more, you'll earn more. If you want to work less, you'll earn less. The choice is yours.
We will provide to you a great working environment where you can make a difference. Our applicants can start entry level and are eligible for frequent raises. Whether or not you have experience, you can find rewarding work as a customer service, data entry or medical transcriptionist.
If you are interested in a job interview please reply to this email.
We are looking forward to working with you.
Thank you!
Nancy Klune
Human Resources
Our clients have come from the following backgrounds: part-time, receptionist, medical assistant, medical transcription, sales, driver, customer service, administrative assistant, manager, data entry, healthcare, retail, dental assistant, marketing, medical receptionist, part time, customer service representative, medical billing, clerical, executive assistant, call center, entry level, dental, office assistant, full time, administrative, cashier, part-time job, analyst, health care paralegal, medical, store manager, security, office manager, college, payroll.
Opt-Out: If you are sure you do not want additional mailings from us please insert your address to send us an email removing you from our future mailings.
Email Address:
Opt-outs may take up to 7 days to take effect. Please disregard any emails you see from us in the interim.

I fell for this one as I’m so desperate for a job that I’m willing to take anything that comes my way. I actually responded to this e-mail indicating my interest but one day later, I get the exact same e-mail, and whenever that happens, it’s most likely a scam in progress. I didn’t respond with any personal information so I should be OK. I’ll just ignore anything they send back.
From now on I need to start looking up these e-mails to make sure they’re not scams. This is only going to add more time to my daily job hunt routine but it’s better safe than sorry. I have a hunch there are going to be plenty of more scams coming my way soon and that means plenty of material for future blog posts.

Another job scam.

This appears to be another job scam that’s making its rounds on the Internet. A few days ago I got this e-mail:

Hello,

Thanks for responding to the AD and I’m Phillip Castillo, The new director of works at Action Aid International (USA), we have gone through your resume and feel your are competent for the job so we need to know if you are capable of repairing computers in large volumes (6-10 computers for trials), the organization distributed few computers to a missionary home in Lima, Peru, and there objectives was to hold a free computer training section for the kids at the Mission Home, we got information that the computers all malfunctioned and They are shipping the computers back to us, we need to fix them and have it returned in time, are you available for this job? we need your urgent response to this ad.

Very Respectfully,
Phillip Castillo
Action Aid International.
www.actionaid.org

I actually fell for this one. There’s actually a link to the web site this time, making this e-mail appear to be perfectly legitimate. Never mind the typos, I’m desperate for a job so I responded to this e-mail indicating that I was interested in this position. A few minutes later I received a notification that my e-mail could not be delivered as the sender’s account was disabled. Today I got this same e-mail again but this time decided to look it up online and sure enough, it appears to be yet another scam.
These scammers are really getting good. Too bad their spelling isn’t.

UPDATE: This scammer just e-mailed me a third time with the same text as above, this time from an e-mail address on Hotmail. This “opportunity” is getting more annoying than promising.