The Lancing Effect of Freelance
Airing on an IP address near you.
On the 6th of December, 2021, a full investigative report commenced regarding the commercial retail of misprisions.
The proceeding was largely unprofessional and unofficial.
In essence, speculative fiction.
Except, a scam is, in fact, non-fiction.
But, true, nonetheless.
As someone who has previously experienced and engaged, inadvertently, in a phishing scheme, as the knowing victim, my interest in future accounting positions may be attributed to a mission towards preventing future schemes from being enacted against vulnerable parties.
The scheme may have generally been conceived as more elaborate and convincing than the average.
Misrepresentation began with the Freelancer app where I placed a bid for consideration as ‘Veteran Proofreader’.
The entity of employment was largely unknown.
The first hint of Concealment.
I was forwarded to Skype via mobile app, after being issued a “good luck on your interview” from the anonymous messenger on Freelancer asking if I was still interested in the position.
From there, I began confabulating with a man by the name of Greg McCarthy, the proposed “hiring manager” at the disclosed company of TechnologyOne.
Upon Googling, with apt research, the company is acknowledged as a legitimate corporation, providing Software as a Service, located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
However, a company’s name is easy to impress as a stated place of employment while the employees themselves are false identifiers.
Simple to send the company’s website with information, plagiarised, copy-and-pasted, detailing the supposed requirements of this position.
A role that ultimately suffers from identity crisis, considering the fluctuating texts sent listing responsibilities.
Initially, it was believed that “Proofreader” was the official title.
Until the “manager” sent the title of Editor in bold-faced (see bald-faced) typing.
Followed by the later issuing of a form for offer of employment, received via email, shortly after being “hired” from a cursory interview, sent by a Daniel Chase.
Purported Talent Acquisition Specialist.
It should be noted that the responsibilities listed for revised “Editor” were later found to be directly plagiarised from a job listing through Indeed.
Mr. Chase, utilising an email where the company email domain of “techone” is preceding “gmail”, with “chase” preceding “techone”, sends a PDF document which details a fairly convincing contract.
The first several sentences outline the “official”, remote position of “Administrative Assistant/Customer Service rep/Editor & Data Entry clerk”.
Overall, this should technically be describing a Project Manager.
In any case, while appearing authentic, with a Confidential watermark and company design logo at the bottom left, there were a number of clues to discern.
One being the stated amount of hours expected for working. 49 hours, full-time, for a wage of $35 per hour.
Part-time was stated as 20 hours, however, suspicion is aimed towards the former as the standard set of hours worked amounts to a 40-hour work week, minus overtime.
Notwithstanding, the calculation of working 5 hours a day for a total of 25 hours a week evidently does not amount to 49.
Employee benefits were listed.
Clauses, in Roman numerals, were listed.
The company’s CEO, as well as website, were highlighted.
Clever, perhaps admittedly impressive, techniques to instil further belief through the impressionable victim.
Hours listed by McCarthy during the Skype exchange were at variance with the contract’s order. “0800 – 2100”, or 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM.
Usually, the most obvious signs of an employment scam, or phishing attempt, is asking for payment.
In genuine areas of employment, prospective employers will never ask for payment and/or accounting details. The latter will only be requested when the new hire is officially integrated into the company with reliable sources (i.e., existing employees) sending information that verifies identity by association.
This includes, but isn’t limited to: sending information that aims to complete the hiring process from individuals bearing company email addresses. E.g., email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
None under the personal email domains (gmail, hotmail, outlook, yahoo, etc.)
Among the continued trail of clues were dealings with various P2P banking services like Cash App, Zelle, and Venmo, where McCarthy asked if I was familiar.
I proceeded to be directed towards utilising Cash App to enable the use of Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency was said to be the method of payment necessary for financing the supplies and equipment needed to start training, from which a rate of $28 an hour was proposed before transitioning to the $35.
The vendor was said to be third-party, yet unspecified, and only accepting transactions via Bitcoin.
Diverting directives issued for making a few hundred dollars’ deposit into a Bitcoin wallet, I proposed using another crypto platform like Exodus or FTX.
Both platforms provide better security by keeping the user anonymous and not having a location for banking details to be retained.
Naturally, expressing scepticism since the first greetings exchanged, I could have easily removed myself promptly from the race towards a dead end ahead.
However, I decided to take matters of private investigation with self-initiation, curious to see how far this clearly experienced mountebank would go in his fervent attempts to outsmart and deceive me.
As of the 21st of December, 2021, 15 days after signing and returning scans of the employment offer, no further continuity was explored.
After the first failed attempt with sending the “company check”, endorsed for $6500 from Wells Fargo, National Association, there was another unfulfilled alternative.
Once the check was delivered, it was returned posthaste. There was no need to assess the physical elements.
I was directed to deposit the funds into my bank account.
At an ATM.
Another evident red flag.
Fulfilling the action at an automated teller machine ultimately satisfies the trickster’s plan to not be exposed. By not having the check observed by a bank teller, the artist succeeds in not having the check investigated and identified as fraudulent.
Nevertheless, this isn’t the option I chose to commit as the fraudulence was intuitive.
Instead, I simply had the small, Manila business envelope the slip was encased in, along with the attachment of a letter presenting as an eyesore for English teachers, placed in the hands of FedEx with a cashier confirming the nature of falsification by printing FRAUD in all caps with a Sharpie.
Which has likely endured its time in the gauntlet that is the department of security.
Mr. McCarthy was displeased to hear my premature appeal to dismissal, employing yet another method of possible conviction when issuing a phone call. Still tethered to the Skype platform.
English was not his first language. His accent was thicker than bitumen and almost entirely unintelligible. Most importantly, not Australian or Kiwi (New Zealand).
Thankfully, the connection was poor and completely lost after several minutes of strained ears and extended miscommunication.
The final hoodwinking attempt was administered by asking if I owned a laptop. After affirming and divulging each of my three PC brands, McCarthy stated that only the MacBook should be shipped to have software installed with “daily updates”, on the basis of being a “fast working system”.
Aside from the general strategies beleaguered, many of my initial responses were reduced to an exhausted carousel of “Okay”, “Got it”, and “Understood”.
Just as well, McCarthy’s speech patterns were nothing short of peculiar.
After asking the first time if I “had my morning coffee”, I said I hadn’t consumed coffee in years, and was drinking water instead.
The following morning, since our “meetings” were scheduled every morning at 8 AM, he proceeds to repeat the question, as if the previous exchange never happened.
Naturally, he was only concerned with fulfilling his predatory mission.
Summarily, I contacted the real Daniel Chase on LinkedIn, who is, indeed, a Talent Acquisition Specialist at TechnologyOne’s headquarters in Fortitude Valley.
With enough wit, Mr. Chase’s mime was somewhat proficient in being a funhouse mirror.
After the real Daniel closed the case with a “Kind Regards”, it reminded me of the email sent by the imposter, where similar was ushered with “Kindly Regards”.
Another discrepancy being the use of both forename and surname instead of just the former, as typed by the real Daniel.
Aside from the general hamlet’s worth of differences relating to strange punctuation and egregious grammar.
Not to mention that Daniel’s doppelgänger had conspicuously sibling text patterns to Greg.
As if it were Greg sending the emails under alias.
Any confidence artist is effectively powerless against the rabid sceptics and researchers of the world.
They stand little to no chance, yet insist on persisting to challenge their redoubtable opponent, who is inclined to question without surcease.
While they may not be licensed detectives or legally permitted to conduct police work, they don’t necessarily need to be.
Taking arms against the world’s most realistic depictions of villains is a job reserved for vigilantes.
While leaving no room for benefits, it’s compensation derives from the lucrative investment of a society nurtured on collective awareness, worldliness and proactive efforts in making illywhackers like Greg McCarthy an endangered species.
Finance should be festive, not fearsome.