Created: April 20, 2020 06:31 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Thousands of students graduating from college this year have an uncertain future. One looked to the internet for a job and got hired as a virtual assistant. She thought it would be a great start to her career.
It turned into a nightmare, and now she's out $4,500.
"He didn't ask for any banking information, no social security, no personal information from me so I thought how could I get hurt? " Emma Smith said in an interview over Zoom.
This should be the best time for Smith. She was graduating from UB.
But because of the shutdown, she went to upwork.com to find a job and got hired as a virtual assistant.
The man who contacted Smith through the website emailed her that he was a "civil engineer," had moved "from Spain" a few years ago with his family, was busy starting a company and "building my website," needed help and "that's where you come in."
The man who hired Smith emailed her a check for $4,500 on April 13. The name on the check is Anthonio Wilson of Florida.
On April 14, the money appeared in Smith's account at Bank of America.
At noon on the 14th, at Wilson's direction, Smith says she sent the money to a vendor Wilson identified for office equipment she was supposed to use.
But at 5 o'clock on the 14th, Smith's bank account showed the check bounced and the bank removed $4,500 she already spent.
"So that's when I realized I was scammed," she said.
Smith says the vendor never sent her a receipt and she never got any equipment.
Brean: "So Emma, when you send this money out thinking that you're buying equipment, it's actually cash going to him."
Emma Smith: "It's going straight to his bank account cash."
Smith's mother, Shari, is upset the bank made money available before the check cleared.
"And the scammers know this. But I don't know this," Shari Smith said.
I contacted Bank of America. They sad they feel terrible about the situation but they say it's up to the customer to make sure the check is good.
And it's an industry policy.
The American Bankers Association said, "under federal law, banks must make deposited funds available quickly, but just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good."
Smith filed a complaint with the FBI's internet crime center and her family contacted the Monroe County District Attorney.
"I will admit I did feel a little off but I didn't see how anything could be wrong because the money was in my account," Smith said. "You know, it's his money."
I searched for Anthonio Wilson and the business he told Smith he was starting. His information never comes up on Google.
In an email, Bank of America said, "It's very unfortunate when people fall for scams like this, but we do caution customers about accepting checks from strangers and sending or wiring money back to someone they don't know. Once an individual sends money to a scammer, there is often little we can do to get the money back. We also post information about scams and tips on avoiding them on our online security center."
upwork.com provided this statement to News10NBC:
"Upwork considers the trust and safety of our platform to be of utmost importance. We help ensure the safety of our community by providing inherent platform safeguards, including payment protections and fraud detection. That is why our Terms of Service require all work and payments remain on the platform. In this case, both parties went off the platform, removing our ability to detect or prevent malicious activity. We have stringent security systems and a dedicated operations team working 24/7 to detect, prevent and remove fraudulent platform activity. This is why it is critical that users adhere to our Terms of Service and the best practices shared with our community to ensure that we can help protect them."
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