Saturday, 29 August 2009

I Pity the Fool

Well, as some of you may know already from forums I frequent or Twitter posts, I have been well and truly shafted by a money laundering scam disguised as an amazing job opportunity. I shall attempt to explain it all here:

I have missed out on teaching this year (see previous blog entries), so I am now looking for a job that will take me until at least this time next year. I was doing some temp work when I received an email from someone who saw my CV on which is a job site where employers can look at CVs if they are made public. But as the employer has to pay for this privilege and sign a contract with Monster, I wasn't initially suspicious. In this email, they explained that they were an intermediary company that works with people who don't have time to sell their stuff on Ebay and my job would be to make sure each seller received the correct amount of money for their product and report back to them with financial information and reference numbers for transfers (I even made a spreadsheet). I checked out the company and they do exist as a registered trading partner of Ebay, but unfortunately the person who emailed me has nothing to do with them...

Looking back, this seems like an obvious scam but I only had a vague sense of what money laundering was. They had even written out a contract which explained my role and their role in a two month trial period and what they could do to reasonably help me in passing it successfully. I promptly sent to this my mother for her advice (she isn't a lawyer or anything, but mothers know everything) and she has been unsure from the start looking back but she was taken in by the level of detail that went into the agreement. Of course, I signed it and so as well as having my address from my CV, they have my signature and bank details now which means I have to look out for any unsolicited mail now if they attempt identity theft on top of their other crimes.

At the time, the thing that sucked me in was the 'too good to be true' element of the work. In the email, they detailed the working day which would be 3 hours each day from Monday to Friday at £1,800 a month plus 5% commission on each successful transaction. Yes, I am so desperate for work that I fell for this hook, line and sinker. And yes, I am so desperate to reduce my commute and the cost of it every month (over £140) that I was willing to believe a job like this could exist and boy do I feel stupid. It was like winning the lottery when I read that email and I should have realised something was up then. But the fact they had written a contract and found my details from a legitimate source convinced me enough. You know, if they put as much energy into real work as they did on this scam, they would be running Microsoft by now.

So yes, I was working out how much money I could save (and make) each month and the time I would have to do lots of...stuff. But the thing is, I wasn't making ridiculous and unreasonable plans and now I feel robbed of the opportunity to do these things as well as obviously robbed of a job (which I know didn't really exist, but hey ho). I was going to finally get the dodgy window replaced, sort out the damp/mould problem we have in the flat, get new carpets and redecorate, get someone to help with the garden (it is mostly gravel, but Mother Nature has slowly taken over this summer) and even start my driving lessons again. In my afternoons I was thinking how I could help out in a charity shop or an after school club and I would finally be finished work in time to give blood at the community centre that they keep sending me letters for. I was even contemplating joining a gym again. I know! Now, I am hardly a saint, but you know, I was going to help make a difference in my little community instead of spending 3 hours each day on a train and not being able to get home in time for anything other than dinner and some telly. And I know people can do this on top of full time jobs, you don't have to be a superhero or anything. But come on, who wouldn't jump at the chance of not having to do it all on evenings and weekends without having to take any time off work?

So of course, on Thursday this was all shot down when I couldn't access my account online and I rang the bank to find out they have frozen activity on my account because of a payment that was made into it that is expected to be fraudulent (don't ask me how they know these things). So I called the job website with a heavy heart and they said: 'Oh, we have a record of that company, but there is more than one here so I'll email you back with the details once I have found the right one.' So, I felt relieved and still thought the company was legit - maybe the buyer was the dodgy one. But no, after telling me that it all seemed okay they send me an email to say that they have nothing to do with the email that was sent to me and that they have just used the recognised name as a way to get to people. People like me who still think the best of everything despite all the crap that is thrown at them.

I should be angry at them. I have had to go to my bank and try and sort everything out. I had to call the police to let them know I was taken in and that I'm not in on it and above all else, I have to look for another job now. But most of all, my wonderful plans have been well and truly scuppered. But you know what? I am so fed up I am past that now. I am mostly embarassed that I got sucked into this and I felt so stupid explaining it to the bank manager. I had that horrible dread feeling in my stomach before I went to the bank but that's being sorted now - they will cover any losses and once the £2,000 of dodgy money sat in my account has been dealt with they will probably close the account and give me new numbers. But now, the thing that is bothering me is that I have to really concentrate on finding a 'proper' job - none of these temporary contracts that don't help my development in any way just to get a couple of hundred pounds a week. But I'm sick and tired of looking for a job - since February I really haven't had a serious job interview, only temporary contracts or informal arrangements. If I don't get a job soon, I would have spent half of this year out of work which is depressing to say the least.

So, this year has turned out to be one of the worst of my life. Being made redundant, losing another job for no apparent reason, realising a dream but having other people make the life-changing decisions for me and now this. The thing is, I don't think I am clinically depressed or anything, I don't feel I have changed my outlook on life much despite what has gone on. And I am certainly not out for sympathy, I'm just documenting the shit that has happened to me, and it just so happens that it makes an interesting blog. ;o) I still have the same friends (although some of my ex-workmates have really disappointed me), I still enjoy the same pursuits, I still go out and get drunk, I'm always still trying to lose weight (7lbs and counting) and I am still a generally positive person (when I'm not commuting), so I don't think I have done too badly considering.

I apologise for the length of this post, but it has been a while so I'm making my word count up.