Scams suck. Really suck. I had heard all the advice, all the warnings, all the stories, but never really expected to become the victim of one. This one seems to me more like trolling because the scam didn’t gain anything (except maybe information) and just wasted my time for no good reason. I have written about trolls before and this has only increased my dislike of the activity of wasting peoples’ time, my time, giving me hope, and then dashing it, just for the ‘fun’ of it.
What happened you ask? Well as you may well know I have been looking for a job to fill my time between my contract with Tayside ending, and us moving to Birmingham. I had looked on all the normal websites, jobcentreplus, the councils vacancy lists, and then I tried gumtree. Gumtree is a service in which you can find just about everything going, jobs, houses, pets, etc, etc and is a little like ebay but it allows you to look in certain locations. It wasn’t my first choice but I wasn’t about to be choosy – we had bills to pay.
I found an advertisement for something that seemed perfect: a General Assistant job for a family in Dundee. I got in contact and was told that the job required me to clean, tidy and organise, as well as some gardening and shopping when needed. This seemed like a really great job for me as I explained in a recent post. It was good because I work well in personal situations, where my boss can also be a friend, and where I can help people. Simple, labour-intensive jobs like gardening don’t bother me and I often really enjoy them. My employer would be a woman Megan Spovic and her family who were relocating to Scotland.
The one thing I questioned was the wage, mainly that I considered it too high for the work being done. They were offering £18 per hour for 25-30 hours a week. This would have tripled my current salary and earned me around £250 a week. What hurts is that I didn’t question it thinking they were scamming me, I questioned it because I thought maybe they thought that was a normal price, or as they claimed to be German, that they thought that euros were about equal to pounds. So I emailed them saying that I would hardly complain but I didn’t want to take advantage of newcomers to the country.
They offered me the job anyway and so I was excited, ready to take on a new challenge and happy that I could save up for the baby (which no longer matters but that’s another story). I was told that the landlord of the property they would be renting would be contacting me in a few days and I would need to collect the keys from them. Once that was done I would have my wages for the week, plus a little extra money, and would be sent a small list of things to get for the house before they arrived. I would also need to supervise a few repairs later in the week and need to pay them in cash.
So I waited. By Monday (day landlord was supposed to call), I hadn’t received the list and hadn’t heard from the landlord. I figured this was fine and there was still time in the week.
So I waited. By Wednesday I was a little concerned that maybe they had changed their mind about giving me the job so emailed them but got no reply. That’s understandable if they are moving, right? So I used my initiative and decided to look up the property and find the landlord. I assumed the property would still be advertised on a website somewhere, and searched and found it. I emailed the letting agency for information and received the following response:
It was a pretty big shock. In fact I didn’t really know what to say next. When I read it aloud to my husband he very quickly got onto my bank (as they were going to deposit money into my account) to stop any worries about them being able to do anything with that information. That all fine, we made sure to check my account, and continue to check for the foreseeable future – anything that changed we’d know about it. I also got in contact with the police and explained the situation.
Why I didn’t guess sooner? This is a question I have asked myself a number of times. It’s not like they gained anything, and actually the job didn’t fit the patterns of scams that I’ve been taught to avoid. The ones that did were cleverly covered by the story. For example, whereas normally I would avoid people who didn’t seem to know English that well, as the family claimed to be German, I expected a little of a language barrier. I even tried to make my own messages as clear as possible to avoid confusion.
It still seems like a stupid scam though. This isn’t me shrugging off responsibility, it is still my fault for falling for it. Yet, the fact that the scam didn’t really gain anything, I did not meet anyone, I did not transfer money, hand over money, I actually didn’t do anything other than send a CV and ask questions about the job. It seems like a big waste of time for both me and the scammer. I can’t see the point but maybe they wanted an email address to spam, or to use my name somewhere, if these are the reasons I’m pretty sure there are easier ways, and I hope I won’t feel the effects of them.
Of course there were things I should have been more wary of, like the language barrier and the too-good-to-be-true wage packet but to be perfectly honest I was pretty desperate to find a job to fill my time. This is what is most infuriating about the whole situation. The UK is now in a double dip recession meaning there are a lot of people looking for jobs in order to survive, to pay bills, to feed their kids and save for the future. I have student debt, I am currently supporting my husband who is about to graduate, and I am soon to be unemployed (or self-employed maybe). It is not a good use of my time to find a job only to lose it and have to look again for a way to pay the bills. I am not trying to gain your pity. I am just angry that a scammer could choose that joke to have upon people who are most likely, like me, desperate to work.
When I found out I had three reactions:
- Dealing with the mess: contacting the police, bank, etc. I tend to do this both to distract myself from my feelings and to make sure I don’t put it off and cause more trouble.
- Sulked. I was obviously not happy. I felt stupid and abused. I had been a good person and actually looked out for the best interests of my supposed boss, a family who I did not want to take advantage of and been screwed. Not a good start to the day and just another bump in a bad week.
- I fought back. There wasn’t much I could do to the perpetrator of the scam, but it didn’t mean I was going to allow them to mess up my life, my time, and my financial situation. A job that we had been putting off for awhile was applying for a couple of jobs my husband really wanted. He still had a dissertation to complete and that was his priority. In that moment though I powered on through. I edited and revised his CV, we updated his references, and we made the best darn cover letter that ever existed. If he doesn’t get one of those jobs I will actually storm into the office and scream until I get an answer as to why not.
I had to take these steps. I had to deal with it, I certainly had to let out my feelings about it, and I needed to fight back, refusing to give in to the crap life had landed me with. When life gives you lemons, throw them back in life’s face! (Or make lemonade.. it depends on your mood I guess!)
What next? I am really not sure. May has already turned into the month of disappointments, confusion and a little sadness, so it may take a little time to figure out exactly what we’re going to do next. I am still looking for paid temporary work, but I am wondering whether all this is just the push I need to really focus on art and get some stuff sold. I feel like my art has taken a sideline for a little while and I haven’t really let my, as an artist, breathe enough.
It could also be a little bit of a lesson in poverty. We have some savings, and thankfully a roof over our heads (at least till August) and so we’re not going to starve – don’t worry people! But it may mean cutting back on the luxuries we have slipped into having for ourselves. It may be just the lesson we need for the future, kicking us out of comfortable and into living on God’s provision. Who knows? I said life was going to be an adventure, and adventures always have bumps. So we’ll go along for the ride to see what’s next.