Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: A scam and a lesson

I consider myself an intelligent woman, having experienced quite a few events in my life that resulted in instant maturity and inner strength. Regardless of this fact, I recently almost lost $1,000 in a scam.

Because my contract is coming up in a couple months – even though my absence from the radio gives the perception otherwise – and I’m open to various opportunities to make extra money, I admit I was in a vulnerable place to be scammed. It started when I saw a message from a fellow media personality on LinkedIn of a way she had made some cash on the side. Assuming it was a legitimate message, I clicked on the link and signed up to try it out.

It seemed like a secret shopper job, and having never done that before, I followed their lead. I received a text checking on a FedEx package that was sent to my home, which included a check for over $2,000 and instructions on purchasing two iPhones from a local store and documenting my experience. I was told to deposit the check so it was in my account before I attempted the purchase the following day. I then realized my schedule would not allow a visit to the Apple store when suggested and let them know as much.

That is when the pressure began and I started to feel less curious and more irritated by my new venture. The texts asked if I could try and get this purchase done sooner rather than later, to the point I let them know I was not comfortable by the timeline and how I could get their money back to them. They suggested MoneyGram instead of my personal check offer so that they could let someone else receive the funds and complete the purchase in a short period of time. I agreed and set up a MoneyGram account and attempted to transfer $900 of the full amount, which my representative said was the minimum MoneyGram would allow at once.

MoneyGram reached out to me to talk about this transfer and how I knew the people I was sending the money to. That’s when I knew something was off, and it was further confirmed when MoneyGram declined to send the money.

That’s when I contacted my bank, still assuming the check had cleared and inquired how to get the money back to them. That’s when my bank rep said the check was posted because of my good standing but that a check really needs a week to clear the bank. I realized through this conversation that the reason for their immediate need for the money was so I would send them funds before their check was proven fraudulent. Sure enough, my bank rejected the check a day or so later and I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against the fraudulent company.

Having been duped and a willing participant in that fraud is embarrassing. But, admittedly being a multi-tasker and distracted as I entered into what I thought would be a mindless venture providing a little extra spending money, I put myself in the position of vulnerability. I hope this stupidity will serve as a warning to others to be smart and centered, even when they talk themselves into the need to pad their pockets. Being off center and unfocused will certainly put a target on your back … and wallet.