The time I fell for a scam

by | Mar 24, 2019

The time I fell for a scam is a story I have been pretty quiet about. I’m generally an open book but talking about me falling for a scam embarrasses me more than anything I can remember. More than falling down the stairs in high school in front of what felt like the whole school. More than the time when I returned from maternity leave to a tough situation at work and literally could not stop ugly crying (Thank you hormones). However, the research I did preparing for this month’s topic, made me realize how many people are scammed in America. Almost 3 million reports of fraud were reported last year, now imagine what the real total is since many don’t report these incidents, me included. The reported incidents total to almost $1.5 BILLION! Obviously, I am not alone and hope others can learn from the tips we shared and my mistake.

Setting the scene
Melissa and I were one month away from giving our notice to our employer so we could build MEAH. One day on my drive into work, I had an actual panic attack about money. How were we going to be able to stay in our house? Will our kids continue to participate hockey, gymnastics and baseball without my income? How are we going to to change our lifestyle to make one salary work? Cue anxiety.

After that, I was convinced I needed a side hustle. In a panicked brainstorm I thought I could wait tables, drive for Uber, sell my famous pepper jelly at a farmer’s market, anything to bring in a few more dollars. I read an article that that discussed many different types of side jobs and how to find them. In this article, they listed many things that seemed practical and some that were just plain crazy ie, write an ebook or start a food truck. One side job that intrigued me was being a mystery shopper. What’s not to love, you get paid to shop or eat! I quickly went on Google and was looking up companies that hire these amazing jobs, found one and signed up. The website looked very professional and would make anyone believe they were legit.

My mission
A few weeks later, I received a text from them asking if I was ready for my first assignment. I said absolutely and waited for my instructions via mail. I received a priority envelope containing my instructions and a check the following Friday. My instructions were to go to two different stores and purchase $750 in Google Play gift cards. I had a list of questions to answer about each store ranging from cleanliness to customer service. When that was done, I would email back my answers as well as the gift card codes and if completed within 48 hours, I would receive an extra $100 bonus. If you are thinking, Leah, you have got to be kidding me you fell for this nonsense, you are right. I was completely blind to everything, nothing looked official and screams too good to be true, which is generally a correct assumption.

With my blinders on, I set out to be the best darn mystery shopper that has ever lived. First, I went to Food Lion, I purchased one gift card and took incredibly thorough notes. Next I went to CVS, and I became very mad that they did not have Google Play gift cards and had to go to another store. Now the universe was even trying to get me to stop going along with this scam, but I was determined to do a great job. Finally, I made my last surveillance and purchase at Harris Teeter. I eagerly wrote out my summaries of each store and added a few extra credit point notes about certain staff members and hit send.

I think I’m going to be sick
Almost immediately after sending the email, I got this dull nauseous feeling that I did something incredibly stupid. After another wave of panic, I googled the company I was working with and learned from the Better Business Bureau the company was in fact a fraud. I then read hundreds of reviews from others who had fallen for their easy money scheme. Fortunately, I acted faster than the scammers and redeemed both gift cards before they were able to.

The bright side
There are a few positive things that have come out of this:
– I now research every company that I am not familiar with that reaches out to me.
– I learned how helpful the Better Business Bureau website is in detecting a scam.
– Lastly, I am now very current on the latest movies, TV shows and books thanks to my $750 gift card budget.

While this scam was certainly one I could have avoided, there are many that are beyond our control. During the time I spent from planning to publishing this month’s content, I learned my information was breached in the Equifax mishap, had 3 fishing emails sent to work email and had my debit card information stolen. Fortunately, my bank was on the lookout and caught this early.

Scam Jam
If you would like to learn more ways to prevent scams, the Cabarrus County Task Force for Prevention of Elder Abuse is holding their annual Cabarrus Scam Jam on September 18. Click here for more information.

I would like to thank Ron Burns, with Identity Shield for providing me materials to assist in the development of the tips we shared all month. Click here to see our tips on Facebook.

I would love to hear from you. Please share your stories, close calls or just how much you hate scammers with us on Facebook.

As always MEAH Health is here to help you. Text (704) 981-2627 or email us to see how we can help you and your aging parent today.

Your friend,
Leah

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