Storytime: That One Time I (Almost) Got Scammed

Hi, all.

Today, I thought that I would share the story of how I *almost* got scammed back in 2015. Granted, it’s been three years, but for a long time, I was quite reluctant to talk about it, just because I cringed at how bad (and stupid) I was. But since then, I’ve become smarter, less naive, and I hope that my story can help those not the same mistake as I did back then.

Without further ado, let’s get into the story.

That One Time I (Almost) Got Scammed

It was the summer of 2015. I had just graduated college and was back home with my parents. I had a job lined up for me beginning that fall and, until then, I was interested in making some money on the side– I would need it, because my soon-to-be job would take me overseas (to Europe), and I wanted to earn some money to fund the trip and get settled.

That said, I looked into freelance writing opportunities online. I’d done some freelance writing in my college years, but nothing too serious. Mostly on-and-off stuff just to earn some pocket money. At that point, I didn’t have a job, so I decided to try and find one on the Internet.

At first, I couldn’t find any suitable jobs. Many of the offerings posted online (I used Upwork) either paid way too low for too much work or just weren’t compatible with my skills. However, it was when I received an “Invitation” from supposedly a woman with a very-generic American name (don’t even remember it) who was hiring someone to be her personal assistant. The message said that the PA could earn up to $400 a week by running errands and all of that.

In hindsight, I knew that it was definitely a shady-ass job posting. Even back then, I had my doubts, but at the same time, I was really looking into making money, and the price looked too good to be true. Really was a naive college graduate, to say the least. Any case, I accepted “her” offer, and we exchanged information (including phone numbers and address), and she said that she would get back to me about my first task I had to do.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and I receive a package in the mail. It was from this woman and inside was a check for $1200. She then sent me an email saying to deposit the check in my bank account, then withdraw that money and send it to a specific address (a client) via Western Union. Then afterwards, I’d get paid. Once again, I look back on this and cringe at my incredibly-stupid self, but at that time, I didn’t know what was going on, so I followed through with it.

I happened to be visiting my alma mater that day, so I did the operation at the nearest branch and then Western Union. A few minutes after I transferred the money, I received a call from my bank who’d noticed that I had withdrawn a huge amount of money and was calling to check why that was the case. After some Q&A time, they informed me that I was being scammed. In the back of my mind, I was thinking the same thing, but probably was in denial about it– wasn’t until the bank called me that I basically woke up and came to terms that I, in fact, had been swindled.

Panic mode settled in, and I knew that I had to act fast to get my money back– after all, “she” (or “they,” who really knows) had just stolen $1200 from me, and I had to get it back. I bused myself all the way back to the Western Union branch, told the desk workers what happened, and they canceled the transaction. Next thing to do was go to my bank and reverse the withdrawal I’d done. Got this done within a span of three hours, although the whole time I was freaking out.

As for the scammer themselves, I had a heated exchange with them back-and-forth through a combination of text messages and emails within those three hours of trying to clear up the mess I’d gotten myself into. Basically, I interrogated them, demanding what they were going to use the money for (as they’d been very vague before). They were saying bullshit like, “to help people,” and then I told them that the deal was off, that I wouldn’t be working for them again. Finally, I hit them with the ultimatum: stop contacting me or else I would call the police. That shut them up.

Returning home, I had to break the news to my parents (as my bank account was tied with theirs), and they were absolutely furious. I deserved it, because I was so dumb, and we ended up closing my bank account, in case the scammer had access to it somehow. We reopened a new one a few days later, and I then decided to go to my city’s sheriff/detective office to file the case. Submitted all the evidence (mail package, email history) and within a month or less, the detectives got back to me and told me that they’d traced the evidence to a single-parent individual living in New Mexico. They asked if I wanted to go ahead and press charges, but I, having been super stressed out/worn out by all of this drama, chose not to– even though it’d taken a toll on my pride, it was but a petty crime, and I was fine otherwise.

Looking back, it’d been one of the craziest post-grad events that has happened to me. I fully blame myself on the fact that I was so naive and so desperate for money that I didn’t notice the obvious warning signs. Lesson learned, though, and I was really fortunate that I managed to get my money back and call out the scam. Moral of the story: even if you are desperate for money, be sure you’re smart about how to go about getting it. Basically, don’t get scammed!

That’s about it for me, folks! Let me know if you have a scam horror story to share…I’ll probably keep the next posts lighthearted, so until then!

— The Finicky Cynic

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