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Beware the scammers targeting Bristol Gumtree
bristol | drugs and crime | news report Friday August 10, 2012 09:39 by Arvind Howarth arvindicate at hotmail dot com
My recent job search has been frustrated by two close calls with suspected scams. In both cases I replied to adverts on Bristol Gumtree, lured by the promise of high wages for minimal or easy work. The first case was easy to identify as dodgy from an early stage but the second offer reeled me in to within an inch of becoming seriously involved.
The first ad I replied to was for a ‘listing auction poster’. I should have been deterred by the fact that the job was advertised twice – the first time for 600 pounds a week, then later for 400 pounds a week. In both cases the heading stated ‘easy job’ in the title and the description mentioned posting items online for a hundred pounds per post.
I replied asking for more information. The email I got back said ‘ebay poster job’ in the title and said I must use my own ebay account to post ten ads per week. I would receive 25 pounds plus ‘ebay fee’ plus 3 per cent of the final selling price of each auction I completed. I am very gullible and was still feeling tempted. However, I sent back a long list of questions including what I would be selling, why there was a discrepancy between the wages advertised and those mentioned in the email, and whether I would be invoiced for my work. I never received a reply and so that's as far as that went.
Then I got a reply from an application I had made for ‘personal assistant/office help’. The original advert sounded very genuine – an office on Cheltenham road seeking a bubbly assistant with all sorts of listed software skills. ‘You will enjoy a high-energy, fast-paced environment with the opportunity to grow from within!’ and so on. The only early warning was the unbelievably high wage of 300-500 pounds per week.
The reply to my application came from someone called Malcolm Lane who claimed to be in Los Angeles on business and therefore only able to interview me by way of a short email questionnaire. He said he would pay me £200 pounds a week for 15-20 hours work per month. The work he mentioned had a lot to do with me receiving packages of paintings (which he said I was free to open) and forwarding them on. He said ‘you will also be required to call some companies on my behalf once in a while to discuss the prospect of business. All this information will be revealed to you upon the allocation of this job to you.’
He also claimed to be ‘constantly out of town on business as I am about setting up an Art Gallery in Westfield Shopping Mall Stratford, next to the Olympic village’.
Although alarm bells should have been ringing at the unreasonably high wages and the offer to pay me up front and cover all expenses for doing one hours work a day for three days a week, I still applied with the information he had requested. The small sensible part of me made sure this did not involve any bank details. It was only when I realised I couldn’t remember applying for such a job and went back to view the original post (in which the job description bore no resemblance to what was now being discussed) that I became seriously suspicious.
But I had already applied. Not surprisingly I got the job, but my welcome letter was much less coherent and left no doubt in my mind that something fishy was up. I quote ‘…you will resume work with helping me on errands, sorting out my delivers and packages and doing my shopping's. You will be properly briefed in order to carry out every task appropriately. I believe we can start the purchase with TRUST, HONESTY AND SOUND MIND! Please assure me of your trust, honesty and commitment.’ He went on to say ‘I will make arrangement to send payment to you for your first week wage and also to carry out your first assignment which will be purchasing my next set of paintings and having it delivered to you. You will be informed once the payment has been sent and what you are to do with the remaining money after deducting your wage.’
.One quick search of ‘paintings online scam’ drew plenty of results, mainly from pissed off art galleries who have been targeted by fraudulent buyers with bouncing cheques. There were obvious clues that led me to believe I was on the verge of becoming a link in one of these scams, such as the buyer claiming to be out of town, sending (soon to bounce) cheques for more than the required amount and asking for cheques for ‘the remainder’ to be sent elsewhere (from the victim’s own pocket), constantly changing the delivery address for the paintings and so on.
It was at this point that my boyfriend kindly stepped in on my behalf with a two word email reply. I have reported both adverts to Gumtree.