Woman desperate for job loses thousands to online job scam
Carla Bonnell thought she was applying for a regular job, but it turned out to be a scam
Carla Bonnell, like many New Brunswickers, was looking online for work.
The Fredericton woman had been on employment insurance for months and was down to her last cheque, when she finally landed a job. She wouldn't need social assistance after all, she thought.
As it turned out, however, Bonnell had fallen victim to a scam.
It is important for customers to know who they are doing business with and verify that a cheque is legitimate before they release funds from their own accounts.- TD Canada Trust
She soon found herself out $2,000 and having to choose between repaying the bank that cashed a fraudulent cheque for her or paying rent and buying food.
Bonnell had been receiving EI since July when she responded to a job posting on Indeed.ca for what appeared to be a legitimate British Columbia-based company.
The advertisement said a graphic design company called Blue Loyal was setting up a location in Fredericton and sought an administrative assistant.
A man sent an email to Bonnell to say she didn't make the short list for the posted job, but Blue Loyal would consider her for a job as personal assistant to the CEO.
"He told me I would have to be doing [the job] a certain way," she said. "And if I did it exactly the way he told me to do it, I would have a position within a couple of weeks."
Next, the man, who claimed he was the Blue Loyal CEO, sent Bonnell one cheque by FedEx, then another. She was instructed to deposit each cheque and transfer half the money to a supplier and half to a shipper, both in the Philippines.
"I was to take the money he gave me — the first was in the amount of $1,980 and the second was over $2,000 — and I was to take the first cheque and cash it.
"He said the cheque would clear within 24 hours. I took it to the bank as per his instructions."
Still, her guard was up, so she asked a bank teller at TD Canada Trust to verify the first cheque.
"Is this cheque legitimate?" Bonnell asked.
The teller told her she didn't know if there was a way to check. At that point, Bonnell said, she was uncomfortable, but it still didn't occur to her that it could be a scam.
She transferred the money to the supplier and shipper listed in her instructions and kept all of the receipts and email exchanges between her and the man claiming to be with Blue Loyal.
When she went to the bank to cash the second cheque, Bonnell again asked a teller to verify it.
This time, the bank determined the cheque was fraudulent.
"We're going to report it to the fraud department,'" the teller told Bonnell.
Meanwhile, the job posting was removed from Indeed.ca.
"Indeed reserves the right to remove any job postings that do not meet our standards and we encourage job seekers to report any suspect job advertisements to us, or if they feel it necessary, to make a report to the police," Indeed said in a statement.
Bonnell filed a report with the Fredericton police.
She said police told her a man had come forward with a complaint much like hers.
Different in the details
Heidi Cyr, spokesperson for the Fredericton Police Force, said 12 incidents have been reported in the past year involving someone who has lost money through a similar scam.
The cons can vary in the details.
"The scammer advising the complainant that a relative has been jailed, or is in an accident and needs to send money as soon as possible," Cyr said.
I checked everything out as best I possibly I could. I was actually quite excited because I thought we were getting investment here in New Brunswick.- Carla Bonnell, fraud victim
Like Bonnell, victims are sometimes sent cheques, asked to deposit them, then to transfer money elsewhere. When deposited cheques bounce, the victims lose that amount.
Cyr repeated some well-known advice: if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
"I can appreciate that it may appear legit on the surface but due diligence goes a long way," she said.
"Sometimes, a simple Google search of the company may alert people of victims of this type of scam."
Bonnell said she did some research, looking up a website for a company called Blue Loyal, based in B.C.
"I checked everything out as best I possibly I could," she said. "I was actually quite excited because I thought we were getting investment here in New Brunswick."
She said the name of the CEO on the Blue Loyal website matched the name in the email address the impersonator was using. The destination behind the "@" symbol was different, but Bonnell said she didn't notice this until after the fact.
No representatives from the actual Blue Loyal wished to comment when contacted by CBC News.
The company's website now features a warning at the top of its home page: "If you have received a job offer from Blue Loyal, it is a scam. We do not send job offers."
Collections versus hunger
Bonnell said the bank told her she would need to repay the amount of the first cheque of $1,980
"How am I supposed to do that? I'm on EI. That's why I was looking for the job in the first place."
Bonnell said that when her last EI payment landed in her account, the bank immediately took it to cover the fake cheque. She then missed a rent payment and car payment and was short on grocery money.
"I'm on borrowed time," she said. "They never called. They just drained my bank account when my EI came in."
TD Canada Trust issued a statement saying it was dealing directly with Bonnell on the matter.
"Customers are responsible for funds they put into their account," the statement said.
A cheque that's been cleared just means funds have been moved from one financial institution to another, the bank said. It doesn't mean the authenticity of the cheque has been verified or that it won't ultimately bounce.
Better luck eventually
"It is important for customers to know who they are doing business with and verify that a cheque is legitimate before they release funds from their own accounts," the bank's statement said.
Bonnell has now found a full-time job in Moncton and moved there. She said she is living with a friend until she can save enough for a new place.
She hopes her story serves as a warning to others.
"I just don't want others to have to go through the same thing."