A scammer will email a job seeker trying to set up an interview. Check the email address, it will be from gmail or something similar not an official company domain, e.g. firstname.lastname.company @gmail.com. The Interview process will move very fast. The scammer will send a job offer, then send a check to set up your home office. The check is fake and will be declined. The scammer will say you need to purchase items from a preferred vendor. The scammer will say you have to use a pay app to be able to get the equipment in time to start, and as usual, the scammer will be very pushy trying to make you do things quickly.
Below is my personal story of talking with one of these scammers. I started talking with them because I did happen to apply to the company they were impersonating. Luckily I deal with scammers all the time and noticed red flags before giving them money.
I have talked to others that have had the same scam run on them. The scammers will change details, and company names, and sometimes they will take longer with the scam but it is the same basic setup.
This blog is a cautionary tale so others don’t fall victim.
Below is how the scam played out with me. The names in quotes are the actual names the scammers used while talking with me.
This is how it all went down:
Monday ~10 am:
- I receive an email from “Donald” at “Intelletec”. The email states that they have reviewed my application and want to set up a time for an interview.
Nice! Sounds good.
- I double check my Huntr app and see I applied to Intelletec for a Software Engineer position about two weeks ago. So I set up a call with “Donald” for the following Day.
Tuesday ~11 am:
- I have my interview with “Donald”. Despite some initial nerves, everything seemed normal and we went into a standard conversation about my experience and their tech stack. Donald seemed seasoned and well-versed in the technologies. We talked about the company culture, and the role itself. At the end “Donald” said that he thought I could be a good fit and said the next step would be a technical test and to answer some behavior questions. “Donald,” said I would receive an email where I could set up a time.
Tuesday ~4 pm:
- I receive the email “Donald” spoke of, and I was able to set up my next interview for the next morning.
In this process, this was the first time I thought. “Uh weird…”, none of these companies move this fast. Usually, I have to wait a week to even hear anything about the next interview, especially to set up something the next day. But whatever, maybe this company just has their hiring practice down.
Wednesday ~11 am:
- I get on a call with the “Technical Team”, and [don’t remember his “name”] tells me that he is having problems with zoom and that we will just do it over the phone. He asks me to open up Replit and he would ask me Data Structure and Algorythm-style questions and I would talk my way through the problem over the phone. We did three of those questions. After the questions, he said I will shortly receive an email from HR with the behavior portion.
This was an odd experience but still relatively normal.
Wednesday ~ 12 pm:
- The email from “HR” comes in. It is a list of standard behavior-type questions. Ones like “Tell me about a time when you had to solve a particularly challenging problem.” and “Give an example of how you've collaborated with cross-functional teams to deliver a project.” All were reasonable questions. I have to answer the questions and email them back.
Thursday ~ 1 pm:
- I received an email from “HR” saying they liked all my answers and that the “Technical team” agreed. The email stated that I was in consideration for the position and they would get back to me when they reviewed all other candidates.
Okay, now things definitely seem off. This moved really fast. But still, this is my first job in tech so I don’t know what to expect.
Friday ~ 4 pm:
- I receive an offer letter from “Intelletec”.
That was way too quick, okay, now I am really second-guessing the validity of this offer. Plus, I only talked to two people over the phone and never even on video.
- The email states that if I am interested in the position I should review the documents and sign and send them back by Monday afternoon.
At this point, I decided to just go along with it, and see what happens, at least I’ll have a fun story and at best I wasted a scammer's time. And who knows, maybe I am wrong and I have a job.
One thing I have to give to the scammers, the offer letter was very well done. They put time into that fake letter.
Monday ~ 7 am
- “Donald” doesn’t waste any time, he is texting me now. Tells me that if I am accepting the job I should send the papers back soon. He really wants me to set it up in time for the next project. I send the papers back right away. Shortly after I receive a text from “Paul” from HR. He tells me that he needs to get me set up with my home office. He says that I have to use their equipment that would be supplied by a “preferred vendor” and that I would receive a check for $6000 to pay the vendor.
Huh? Why wouldn’t they just pay the vendor and have it shipped to me? Very strange, doesn't seem legit. I’ll ask “Paul”.
- “Paul” tells me a story about how they used to just send equipment to employees, but too many people tried to scam them and say they never received the equipment, so now it's on the employee to order the equipment with the stipend check.
Okay, “Paul”, sure.
- I tell “Paul” that “Donald” is in a hurry for me to get started so I should just go to Best Buy and get the equipment so I can start right away. “Paul” tells me that I can’t. It must be through the “preferred vendor” so that they know I have the correct equipment.
Monday ~ 11 am:
- I get an email from “HR” with a personal check attached. The email says that the check is from a “trusted partner” of theirs. The email goes on that the check has been certified by the “trusted partner” so it clears the bank the same day.
Lol, now a “trusted partner” is involved.
- The email continues, I must deposit the check by mobile, and I must screenshot the deposit and send it back to them so they know the process is underway.
Okay, whatever. I have fraud protection so I don’t have to pay for bounced checks. Let's do this.
- Obviously, the check is automatically declined and flagged as fraudulent. An alert pops up on my banking app. I screenshot it and send it to “Paul” “Paul” is “shocked” to see the check is declined. It was even certified! Paul says it must be my bank flagging it because I never cashed a check so big.
Um… did “Paul” just neg me?
- “Paul” will have to get back to me, to see what we can do.
Monday ~ 1 pm:
- “Donald” is texting again. Tells me he heard from “Paul” what happened. “Donald,” says not to worry, he has seen this before. He says that the bank is just delaying the funds, but it will clear, probably in three days. But “Donald” is worried that this will delay the project. We really need to get that equipment to me. “Donald” has an idea! The only thing that I need to get started in the first week is the computer. “Donald,” says the computer is only $2000. “Donald” wants to know if I could raise the funds by the end of the day to pay for it myself and then just keep the $2000 from the stipend check once it clears.
Wait… did “Donald” just say “can you raise the funds”? Who raises funds? This is America, I am already in crippling dept what's another $2000 on the card.
I am definitely not going to do that, but let's play along with “Donald”.
- I tell “Donald” that I can definitely pay for the computer, I will just use my credit card. “Donald” says he doesn’t know if that would work, he will ask the “preferred vendor manager” if it is okay that I put it on my credit card.
Why wouldn’t a company take a credit card? Seems suspicious. Oh, and shouldn’t this “preferred vendor” have some sort of website I could see? How am I supposed to buy the equipment anyways? Seems like I was never meant to buy the equipment.
Monday ~ 3 pm:
- “Donald” is back and he says the “preferred vendor manager” can not take a credit card. Credit cards take too long to clear the funds. But he has a new idea! He can take Cash App!
OMG, did he really? At least he didn’t ask for a Visa gift card.
I knew it was a scam for a bit now, but that one was the proof. Time to go talk to the real Intelletec.
- I tell “Donald” that I have to download the app and get back to him.
Monday ~ 6 pm:
- I look up the management of the real Intelletec. I reach out to Sally [not her real name] and ask if she knows that scammers are impersonating their company. She replies back pretty quickly. Sally is aware of the scammers and thanks me for reaching out to inform them. I tell her that I have a lot of information on them: multiple emails, phone numbers, an offer letter, a check, and I saved all the conversations. I offer to give Sally whatever she needs to help take the scammers down.
When copying the emails, I looked at the full email address for the first time. “Donalds” email was Donald.Fred.Intelletec @gmail.com and “HR” was HR.Intelletec @mail.com.
Oh… no…. This should have been a huge red flag. Now I check every email address from anyone I don’t know.
Monday ~ 9 pm:
- “Donald” reaches back on text and said the “preferred vendor manager” is waiting to place the order, but it needs to be soon to make the deadline.
What a nice “preferred vendor manager”, willing to place my order at 9 pm.
- I tell “Donald” that I reached out to Sally to see what she thought and she said it was best to wait for the check to clear.
Note, Sally did not say this, I am just messing with the scammers at this point.
- “Donald” asked who Sally was.
How does he not know the head of HR?
- I tell “Donald” Sally is the head of HR, and ask how come he doesn’t know her? I tell “Donald” he better talk to “Paul”.
This was the last communication I had with the scammers. I suppose they realized I was just wasting their time.
Stay aware, stay safe.
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Top comments (3)
Wow, what a crazy story! I've never heard of this type of scam, so it was helpful to see it broken down. Like you realized, the lack of an official company email domain is a huge red flag. I had someone from Apple contact me on Twitter once, and I asked her to email me from her @apple.com domain and she did, which helped me realize it was legit. It's a good rule of thumb to follow with any engagement.
Wow, this is crazy this is just crazy... and horrible - that people would do this...
But you did well, and it's great that you informed the real HR and that you are sharing and warning others 🙏thank you
WOW, thanks for posting this. I had a Code challenge that seemed a bit goofy, but no where near to this s*** show. Glad you recognized it for what it was