I went to sleep hopeful – I had a new student to tutor and help with English, which made me excited. New challenges energize me. Having new students encourages me about the possibilities in life.
In the morning, these hopes were shattered. I was infuriated when I received an email that was a scam. I had been gullibly entrapped in a scheme that tries to take money from innocent victims. The perpetrator (perp) usually sends a request for you to cash a cheque for more money than your fees and submit the excess cash to them. Then the cheque bounces. Firstly, you are left without your fees. Secondly, they have stolen your money too.
I was upset for several reasons:
- I had been looking forward to the opportunity to teach – but it wasn’t real.
- While I am usually vigilant, I had missed / ignored some of the signs that this was a scam.
- There are bad people out there who are trying to take advantage of us and it is just not fair!
However, I am a person who looks for the silver-lining in every cloud, and I feel that I am constantly learning from every experience. So, I want to share what I learned from this particular experience.
First, look for tell-tale signs that the assignment is not legitimate. I had received the message on a message board with what looked like an authentic request asking about my location, rates, and qualifications. I responded immediately by email with the requested information. This of course, meant the perp now had my email address. A telltale sign that I missed – I never looked at the phone number on his profile. It was not local. And I had dismissed the poor grammar (which is similar to many scams) because I thought he, as well as his daughter, might also need help with English.
My second piece of advice is to never give out personal details and to plan to meet people for the first time in public places. When we first made contact, I was very cautious and gave him only an approximate location – the block that I lived in. However because I had planned to tutor in my home, when pressed further I gave him my actual address. He also requested this detail so he could mail the cheque. And I gave him my phone numbers so his daughter’s caregiver could reach me to arrange the lessons. At this point it still seemed like a plausible story.
To my credit, I did try Googling the perp and his email address before continuing the communication. Nothing came up, but I convinced myself that was because he had used a very common name. In retrospect it was another red flag.
After I provided the details he requested for the location of the class and the mailing of payment, I received another email with the attempt of an “advance fee fraud”. This is what it said:
“I want to alert you on the delivery of the check to your address any moment soon as i was told that the check has been sent out to your address as i said to you that my attorney will send out the payment before traveling out for his vacation, although the check is a bit more than your teaching cost am so much sorry for the inconvenient, my attorney included my daughters traveling expenses and the caregivers pay on the check to avoid delay in any plans and other preparation for the lesson. Once you have cashed the check at your bank you are going to deduct the lesson fee,and you will assist me to send the left funds to the caregiver who will be taking proper care of my daughter during her stay for the lesson. Hope i can trust you with the balance? my attorney has left the state this morning for vacation. I will be more than grateful if you can render this assistance and I won’t mind paying you extra $50 as compensation for your efforts. Do keep me posted as soon as the check arrive so that we can proceed from there.”
Yes, I was being scammed and I was furious. Yes, I was disappointed that I did not have an opportunity to teach. Yes, I wanted revenge! Retribution was not going to happen. The best I could was to report the perp and his scam to every agency that I could.
These were the steps I took (and you can too – if you ever fall victim to a scam):
- My bank – I had not shared any financial information during the process, but I still wanted to protect myself, so I notified them with the story.
- The police – I went to my local police station, but they really do not deal with issues like this. However they did refer me to a federal agency…
- The Canadian Fraud Centre – I spoke with them to get advice on what to do next. They suggested that I ignore any / all further correspondence from the perp and contact them again if I actually receive a cheque in the mail. (I am still waiting for the infamous “cheque in the mail”.)
- Tutor Website – I notified the tutoring website that this had occurred, but did not receive a response.
- Gmail – Since the perp’s email was from a gmail account I decided to notify Google. I know that if they close the account, the perp will just get a new one, but it could interrupt any scam deals that he has already started. And it made me feel like I was causing him some grief anyway. I found the instructions on this excellent, brief article: How to report and stop fraud attempts using gmail yahoo and hotmail addresses
- Blocked the sender – I sent the information to my web hosting service and requested a block be put on the IP address involved.
For now, that’s all I can do. For the future, I can keep my guard up. And I hope this post may help someone else to prevent or deal with a similar attempt. We cannot stop the bad guys but we can continue to share our experience to make it harder for them to succeed.
Now I can go back to focussing my attention on how I can help students find “winning words” to communicate better.
Please share your experience if it will help to prevent future fraud and scams.