GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A sophisticated scam aimed at executive job seekers has a Grand Rapids woman on the hook for thousands of dollars.
Pamela Leddick has been out of the job market for about 12 years after a career as a university executive and in the Air Force as a bomb navigation systems technician, which brought her to Greece and Germany.
“It’s very difficult. I’ve been out of the job market for a while and I’m old. It’s difficult getting back in,” Leddick said from her tastefully decorated apartment with artifacts from her interesting life.
She has a master’s degree, but now has shaken confidence and a loss of trust.
“I feel stupid and embarrassed but angry that this happened to me,” Leddick said.
Leddick downloaded her resume to ZipRecruiter, which hails itself as the No. 1 job recruiter in the nation.
There she saw a job listing by Vattenfall, a Swedish multinational company that specializes in alternative energy.
“They needed a senior executive administrative person and it just suited me perfectly,” Leddick said. “They didn’t develop the job around me. It was already posted because I considered that.”
She vetted the company online and talked to a friend in Germany, who verified that it was a good company.
She applied and within days was contacted by someone saying she was with ZipRecruiter. She soon had an online interview over Skype with someone allegedly from Vattenfall.
They did a 90-minute interview after which she was hired.
The fake recruiter sent her a check that evening for $2,500, which she deposited into the Huntington Bank account she has had for more than 15 years. The funds were made immediately available.
They were offering $96,000 per year. That’s a lot but she has 30-plus years of experience in military, business and education, including time in Europe. So, she believed that the salary was not out of line.
The next day, the recruiter called and told her to buy five $500 Amazon gift cards to use to buy office equipment she would need to work at home until the building was complete.
“I was rationalizing that they had given me this check with trust that I would utilize it in a proper fashion and this was their way of controlling things,” Leddick said. “A couple of days later, I find out it was NSF.”
She is now on the hook for $2,500. Huntington Bank is seeking reimbursement from her — as they are entitled to do under U.S. law.
“I’m not the criminal. I am a victim. They don’t see it that way.”
The bank garnished her income tax return and she still owes another $700.
She is on Social Security and says it is going to take many months to pay back.
Huntington did not respond to a request for information from 24 Hour News 8.
Leddick said ZipRecruiter apologized to her, but every posting has a warning about fraud.
They say they work to vet employers, but no system is perfect.
“The police were the only ones who were really sympathetic with me and felt that it sounded really legit,” she said.
Police say that you can never do too much verification when it comes to online transactions.
“Confirm who runs the human resources, ‘is this how you recruit, is this how you interview?”” said Grand Rapids Police Department Sgt. Dan Adams. “Companies that are asking for you to put up money upfront, sending you checks to cash and then turning around and asking you to send money back, these are all red flags.”
In the end, if someone asks you to do transactions using gift cards, run. It’s a scam.
“A scam like this could be run by a 16-year-old kid anywhere in the world. It makes it harder for us not having the resources to be able to run these cases down as much as we want,” Adams said.