A woman who lost her entire savings after falling victim to an elaborate employment scam has issued a stark warning.
After leaving her job at the beginning of the year, Melbourne woman Ayla spent hours scrolling through different recruitment sites applying for suitable positions.
The 30-year-old, who used to work as a chef but recently made the move to corporate, was desperate to find work and have a steady income once again.
So when she received a message from a “Charles” who claimed to be from a big company and was interested in hiring Ayla, she was over the moon and quickly accepted.
It sounded perfect – she could work from the comfort of her own home and the work meant she had the potential to make thousands of dollars in commission.
Ayla told news.com.au she spent days putting in the effort to learn the ropes and impress her new boss with the tasks she had been assigned.
But little did she know, it was all an elaborate scam that had just one goal: to gain Ayla’s trust and drain her bank account of all her savings.
“At the time, I had been applying for so many jobs on different employment sites,” Ayla – who does not wish to share her surname – recalled.
“So it didn’t feel out of the ordinary that someone was contacting me about a job opportunity.
“They contacted me on the messaging platform WhatsApp, which I guess should have been my first red flag.
“He set me up with an account, and I got to work right away. I thought it was great.”
Ayla never talked to Charles over the phone or saw his face on video chat – instead, their entire correspondence occurred over WhatsApp.
He claimed to work for a sales platform that was associated with a large retail website in Australia, however this was untrue.
Ayla’s job description was to complete “missions” where she would boost merchandise sales and help garner positive customer reviews.
She would then, in turn, receive commissions based on how many shoppers clicked and purchased the products that she had been working to help boost. In the first few days, she made around $100, and was hopeful that she could earn more as she got better at the job.
“I’d message Charles in the morning and then log in, do boostings and make commissions,” Ayla explained.
“I made about $100 at first, and everything was going well. I was added to a huge group chat with about 35 other people that claimed they were other employees.
“All day, they would be sharing screenshots of all the money they were making. I saw people earning thousands of dollars.”
The man explained to Ayla that to win back those type of huge commissions, she would need to invest some of her own money.
“You would get these things called ‘package boostings’ that would allow you to get a huge payback,” she said.
“However, you would have to put your own money in to make a large commission.
“I would transfer the funds to a cryptocurrency account. I knew nothing about crypto, so he showed me everything I needed to do.
“After sending the money, the company would boost my profile so I could complete more missions and get big paybacks.”
Sadly, Ayla never saw any of these promised large commission payments.
Despite investing thousands, she was instructed to keep investing more, until it got to a point where she had no money left in her bank account.
When she confronted Charles, he told her there was nothing he could do.
Ayla realised she had been scammed, and blocked him.
She reported the incident to police and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
On further investigation, a reverse image search of the man’s profile picture shows him standing in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
However, Ayla understands that the name “Charles” is probably fake and the picture used by the scammer on their WhatsApp profile is most likely stolen from somewhere online.
“Looking back, I feel so silly for falling for it,” she said.
“I was hopeful and it seemed simple enough. But I ended up totally broke.
“This entire ordeal has been very traumatic.”
Thankfully, Ayla was able to survive with the help of her partner and was able to rack up some money selling things from around their home.
She has since started a new – and legitimate – job, and is earning a steady income.
Ayla is now sharing her story in the hopes that it will raise awareness and help others not fall victim to similar scams.
“There are so many scams out there, but this one was something I’d never heard of before,” she said.
“It was so elaborate, and with so many layers. They put in so much effort to make their own software and build up trust with the victim.
“I was total mess after this. They took everything I had.
“Thankfully, I’m in a much better place now. I wanted to share my experience and raise awareness about it.
“I would hate for anyone else to go through what I did.”
- Cert NZ: Individuals, small businesses can report a cyber attack, get advice: www.cert.govt.nz
- Financial Markets Authority: https://www.fma.govt.nz/scams/
- Privacy Commissioner: Complaints about privacy breaches. 0800 803 909 or privacy.org.nz/your-rights/making-a-complaint/
- ID fraud: Department of Internal Affairs advice: dia.govt.nz/Identity - Are-you-a-victim-of-identity-theft
- IDCare: Backed by the Ministry of Justice and its counterpart in Australia. Assistance freezing credit records, regaining control of online identity after an ID theft: idcare.org
- NZ Police: Report cybercrime online scams, online child safety issues: police.govt.nz/advice-services/cybercrime-and-internet
- Dept of Internal Affairs: Report spam, banned content, child exploitation: dia.govt.nz/About-the-Digital-Safety-Group