Editor's note: The victim in this story has requested anonymity. She will be referred to simply as Jane throughout the story.
Jane just wanted to better her life with a possible career change.
But when she posted her resume on a job-search website, she had no idea how her life would change – and not for the better.
"On April 3, I got a text message on my cell phone asking me if I am (Jane)," she said. "I texted back yes and asked for identification."
The text message gave Jane the name Rebecca (last name withheld). Rebecca told Jane she had seen her resume and felt she would be a good fit for an opening with her company – an international company that builds and leases shopping centers.
Jane said she took steps to ensure the company is a legitimate operation, and the two agreed to communicate by instant messenger later that day.
"I didn't think anything about that because it's not unusual to conduct an interview online," Jane said. "We 'talked' for about an hour and she said 'OK, you're hired.'"
The position had flexible hours, and Jane would work from home, which would require some equipment purchases.
Over the next few days, Jane received and deposited a check from South Bay Top Brass Marketing & Services, Inc., along with a detailed list of all the equipment she should purchase from one of the company's "trusted vendors."
While the check for $2,600 cleared Jane's account, the essence of the scam was to have her purchase the equipment from a third-party vendor, Security Image Beater in Chicago, Ill., before the check actually had time to clear the bank on which it was written. She was told to use MoneyGram or Western Union to send the money for the purchases.
Things weren't adding up, so when Jane became suspicious, she decided not to purchase anything and wait to see if the company's bank would come back to her to retrieve their funds.
"Rebecca wanted me to send two payments of $850 each two different times which added up to $3,400," Jane said. "I talked to Western Union and they told me it could be an 'advance fee scam' and when they showed me a list of tips, I realized that everything that was on that list had happened."
Maj. Dustin Reynolds, an investigator with the Webster Parish Sheriff's Office, said he has no doubt Jane is the victim of a scam; however, there is little law enforcement can do.
"This is going to be one of those Nigeria- or Jamaica-based scams," Reynolds said. "They are non-extradition countries and even if we wanted to, we couldn't get them."
And there is no safeguard by sending money through Western Union.
"Just because you send the money to New York City, it doesn't mean that's where the money goes," Reynolds said. "All they need is a number, and they can pick up that money in Nigeria, Jamaica ... anywhere. They send you fake money orders and have you buy all this stuff, then ship it to somebody who in turn ships it overseas."
Reynolds said even though it's best to avoid anything that could turn out to be a potential scam, Jane handled the situation the best way possible.
"She didn't have a loss because she didn't spend the money," he said. "The scammers pay you with a fake money order or cashier's check. Then three months later, the bank comes looking to you for the money."
Since Jane has pulled the plug on her work-at-home venture, she has received hundreds of harassing text messages from Rebecca, and all of Jane's attempts to explain why she has decided to turn down the deal have been ignored.
Some job hunting sites, such as careerbuilder.com, refer to these as Phishing scams. They even have a webpage designed to combat online fraud with tips similar to those of Western Union.