Work from home

‘Work from home’ scam snags Westland man as experts warn they’re on the rise

WESTLAND, Mich. (WXYZ) — There’s a new scam emerging in metro Detroit, and it takes the form of a job opportunity. The perpetrators offer people a chance to work from home, making great money. It sounds too good to be true, and it is.

Michael Linblade, 24, knows all to well these swindlers’ games.

“They sent me a text message saying, ‘Are you interested in applying for the job?’ and whatnot. And I said, ‘Yeah, sure!’” explained Linblade.

Michael Linblade works at McDonald’s but was putting out feelers for a job in other fields he’s very interested in, like science and/or technology. He was excited when someone claiming to be from the biotech company, Aldevron, was interested in him.

First came the text message, then a Zoom interview.

“They went over Zoom but it wasn’t like video face to face. It was more chat,” said Linblade, explaining why he never actually saw the face of the person who was supposedly conducting the interview.

The scammer on the other end asked him a variety of questions, interview-style, but nothing that raised any alarm bells for Linblade.

He admits, he is considered a vulnerable adult. He’s had health and cognitive issues to deal with in his life. Plus, this was really his first time ever applying for a job in the traditional fashion. He didn’t know what he should be looking out for at the time.

The whole “interview” didn’t take long. The next day, Linblade was offered the “job.” The scammer even sent him a contract to sign. It looked legitimate, with the company’s logo and confidential emblazoned across the page.

After further conversations, the scammer sent Linblade a check in the mail. He was instructed to deposit it at a bank ATM so he could set up his home office.

Fortunately, Linblade didn’t follow the scammers instructions. Instead, he walked into his local bank.

“I didn’t really think much of it until I went to the bank to cash it and they said there’s no name of the bank. It just said Subaru on it. Which, at first, I’m like, ‘Subaru’s a car company, not a biotech company.’ That kind of threw me off a little bit, but I still wanted to cash it just to make sure. And of course, it was fraud,” explained Linblade.

He said he only began to do research after the fact.

Linblade called the real Aldevron. He was told him they were not currently hiring anyone for remote work.

“So, I cried afterwards,” Linblade admitted.

Unfortunately, as Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula explained, Linblade is not alone.

“Sadly, it’s within our top five scams of the month. In fact, we have in just our office alone, in the last week, had three employment scam calls,” said Duquesnel.

There were five calls the week before. Plus, the Better Businesses Bureau isn’t the only entity collecting reports of scams so it’s unknown how many there were in total in Metro Detroit alone.

“If you’re looking for part time work, if you’re looking for full-time work, and for whatever reason you don’t feel like working in the place of business, you’re at risk,” Duquesnel explained.

She said this is a reality when you don’t get to see the employer face to face.

“When you go into a place you can get a sense of if it’s a legitimate job. When you’re relying on people to do stuff over a Zoom camera, you don’t always get the full picture,” said Duquesnel.

As for Linblade’s strange check situation, Duquesnel explained scammers will often ask for part of the check to be returned, or they will use the transaction to glean personal information.

“They also now have on the back of that check when they recover it, or sometimes the scammer actually asks you to take of depositing it, they now have your bank account number. So they’re going to go in swoop whatever cash is there, and leave you high and dry,” explained Duquesnel.

Alan Castel is a professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA who studies the reasons people fall for scams.

“We really are susceptible when we’re looking for things we really want. If it’s something we don’t care about, we’re quick to hang up the phone or say, ‘That’s not for me.’ But as soon as it’s something like, ‘Oh a job where I can work from home and it’s just what I was looking for, I had my resume out there, that lets our guard down. Our emotional brain takes over and we stop thinking rationally,” explained Castel.

He said the work from home/check scam follows a certain theme.

“I think this is kind of a foot-in-the-door technique, where you get someone to agree to one thing and discuss the job and they’re offering you things that seem legitimate, and then they make a request that you might not normally do. Like if some stranger asked me to cash a check for them, I wouldn’t. But now we’ve established a relationship and you’re giving me a job, and to start the job I just need to deposit or do something. It establishes this situation of power,” said Castel.

Castel also explained anytime someone tries to rush you along, as Linblade was when he was told to deposit the check at an ATM, you should be suspicious.

As for Linblade, he said next time, he’ll be more aware.

“Do your research and if it sounds too good to be true, then it’s definitely false,” said Linblade.

For reliable places you can go to look for a job or to report a job scam, click here.

Copyright 2022 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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