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How I got scammed $3,000

This scam story is embarrassing and painful for me to talk about. So at the very least, I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any,one else. We all know scammers are out there, but it’s easy to think it will never happen to you. That’s what I thought, until what looked like a great opportunity turned to mud.
I got scammed by someone posing as a filmmaker who asked me to help edit a short film. Now, before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. He got my information from a job board portal and the initial emails sounded very legitimate. He spoke the lingo and at first was only communicating with me sporadically because he said he was on a shoot. He sent me his website and IMDB page, which stated he was working on a film. Cool, everything sort of checked out.
He then wanted to pay me up front for my services, with a little extra to go toward some vendors to help with the edit. That was cool, I guess. I was willing to help, so I agreed to everything and he sent me a check.
At this point, what ended up happening is called a money mule scam. The scammer sends you a fake check, you cash it, and before the bank can tell it’s fake, the scammer attempts to get you to send them money using an outside payment app (like Zelle).
By law, a bank must verify your money quickly and assumes a check is good. In most cases they will cash a check by the next business day and then take an additional 12-24 hours to fully verify everything. It’s during that timeframe that a scammer will ask you to send payments as quickly as possible. These people prey on your insecurity and use emotions to convince you all is good. But it’s not.
The entire ordeal taught me certain techniques scammers use. So I see this as an opportunity to educate others about what can happen to just about anyone. Here’s my brief list of red flags I wish I had recognized before it was too late.

Broken English
I wanted to start with this one because it’s very important. Many scammers have poor English grammar and this scam got to a point where I questioned the location of the scammer. Looking back at the emails, his writing only got worse, putting odd spaces between words and in the middle of run-on sentences. It was then I realized this person probably wasn’t from the U.S., and was doing his best to impersonate a local salesperson.

Too good to be true
I beat myself up for not trusting my gut. It told me on several occasions this offer was too good to be true. Should I question it? When I got that nice $3,000 check from a fake appraisal company, my gut was screaming at me, “Who is this appraisal company really?! Are you sure about this?” That thought was running through my mind when I was happily walking to deposit the check. Unfortunately, I ignored my instincts and faced the consequences. Your gut knows something, try listening to it more.

Do something “right now”
A more common way to identify a scammer is that they will want everything done immediately. Time is of the essence. The longer the clock ticks, the less likely a scam will work. If I had a dime for every time the scammer said the words “right now,” I could easily afford a nice meal and beer at Bardot. If I’m being honest, a real person who is thinking about your interests will not force you to make serious decisions instantly. The greater the pressure, the more likely something is wrong.
I feel like I could write a novel on scams, and how to prevent them. But one simple solution keeps popping in my head. It was the most glaring mistake I made and something everyone should do in situations in which money is involved.

Talk to someone you trust
If there is any takeaway from this debacle, it is that you get a second opinion from a person who has nothing to gain or lose. If I had talked to someone honestly about this so called “deal,” he or she would have asked questions and seen the red flags. Someone from the outside looking in ultimately has a superior advantage in these situations—they can see what you cannot.

It’s really hard to live your life alone. And this is the perfect example why. Talking to someone about your life’s situations could save you so much heartache (and cash) down the line.

by Matt Weinberger | mweinberger@claremont-courier.com

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