Virtual Assistant Scam Alert

The Virtual Assistant industry is now being specifically targeted by con artists and scammers.

A couple of the main cons they are hitting Virtual Assistants with is laundering money and passing counterfeit checks. What they try to do is get you to work with them as an intermediary, telling you some variation of a convoluted scheme involving "their client" being "interested in working with you" and ultimately wanting you to receive money on their behalf where you keep a share and send the rest to them, or you getting paid for both of them but handling the funds through your account only, and sending the rest to them.

One who has been especially prolific is Todd Mayer, supposedly from the U.K. Of course, I’m sure that’s not his real name, and more than likely it’s actually a ring of con artists rather than one person. Once "Todd" realizes we’ve all got his number, he or she or they will probably change it to something new (just like he’s now started putting an address in his phishing emails when Virtual Assistants weren’t biting because they had no way of verifying if he was really who he says he is).

Anyway, "Todd" has been a very busy little beaver writing to all of us Virtual Assistants. New Virtual Assistants are especially vulnerable because they often are so deperate for clients they will jump at anything, and several have fallen victim to this con because of it.

But "Todd" obviously doesn’t realize just how small the Virtual Assistant world is, and how much we all compare notes.

If you receive any variation of this type of email from anyone, steer clear:

"Hello, my name is Todd Mayer . I run a consultancy firm here with registered address 6353 Cronin Street, SE15 6JJ. A client of mine who is due to arrive in the United States in few weeks time is interested in your virtual services. Can you tell me a little more about your mode of operation? If interested, please reply. Thanks, Todd Mayer"

See, he’s getting a bit more sophisticated in his con. Virtual Assistants weren’t biting because they are getting savvy to these cons, so now he’s trying to figure out how we operate so that he can devise his scam to fit into that pattern. Basically, to get better at tricking Virtual Assistants into accepting counterfeit checks, cashing them and then sending him money. He’ll be long-gone by the time your bank alerts you that the check you just cashed was counterfeit and you’ll be stuck with paying for not only the check, but also any bounced check fees that begin racking up. That’s how those con artists scam you.

So be smart. Don’t let big $$ signs cloud your judgment (this is how these cons get away with so much–by using people’s greed or need against them, and if something is too good/too easy to be true, it usually isn’t). NEVER let clients rush your process. NEVER act as an intermediary or "middleman" when it comes to money (no legitimate business will ever need a Virtual Assistant to accept monies on their behalf). Be selective about who you work with. Always stick to your standards and policies. Do your homework, and make sure you have some way of verifying a client is who they say they are.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted December 4, 2007 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I received the same message two days ago. Only because I’d gotten a similar message from a con artist was I able to identify this as unscupulous immediately. Following are some rules of thumb I use to weed out scammers: 1. Unsolicited e-mail or a message not stating directly where they found out about my services, 2. Senders whose names are different than the named on their e-mail account, 3. Misspelled and lower case subject lines, 4. International mailing addresses, 5. Company not found on Google and but is found on Scam.com. These things have helped me hit DELETE as soon as I found a questionable solicitation.

  2. Posted December 5, 2007 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks Danielle for posting this warning about this type of con artist scam. I haven’t received anything like this (yet) however, I will be on the look out for it. I would like to help spread the word about this so I am going to place your post url in my blog for others to read as well.
    Also, thank you Jasmine for the #5 tip – don’t work for a company you can’t find on Google but do find on scam.com. I didn’t realize that there was a website scam.com.

    Thanks to both of you for this very useful information for virtual assistants and really anyone who owns a business.

  3. Posted December 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Danielle. I received the same email more than once. Another scam that is going on is someone is taking the text from our blogs and inserting it into their blogs. However, their blogs contain viruses. It makes us look bad, because if someone clicks on what they think is a valuable blog, they will activate viruses, which are attached to the blogs. If the blog looks suspicious, don’t click the link!!

  4. Candace Lally
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I applied to virtual assistant positions listed on hotjobs.com. I was told that money orders would be mailed to me and I was to keep 8% and send the rest via Western Union to a person in the Dominican Republic. I was given a website address that listed a virtual assistant position! How could this be wrong?? Well, today I did not have time to go to the bank and cash money orders (this would be my second transaction with this company) so I asked my husband to run to the bank and cash them. Well, the bank would not cash them! They actually took photo copies of the money orders to show their security officer. They suggested my husband go to CVS to see if they could be cashed there since that is where they were bought. CVS cashed them, no questions asked! After thinking about what the people at the bank were saying, how there were four checks all for the same amount, we got a little suspicious. My husband ended up taking the remainder of the checks (ten in total) to our local police station. They want to me to come down there tonight with everything I have from these people! Thank goodness I saved EVERYTHING!! Every email was saved, I photo copied the money orders before cashing them, I kept a spreadsheet of all the transactions I was responsible for. I cannot wait to see how this turns out! It seemed too good, too easy to be true and it really is!!

  5. S from PA
    Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the information. What agencies are reliable for virtual assistants? Should you be charged a fee for certification? Is it necessary? And should one be charged a membership fee to receive job postings?

  6. Posted April 24, 2008 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    You obviously are a reader of my blog… are you paying attention?

    What you’re asking about is not Virtual Assistance.

    Virtual Assistance is a profession; it’s not a job.

    Virtual Assistants are business owners. They run their own businesses. They find their own clients.

    What you are talking about is finding telecommuting work. That is NOT Virtual Assistance, and it’s not something you are going to find help with here.

    Come on, people. Use your heads.