I follow big give aways on Twitter because I am currently in college debt and need money.

This guy direct messaged me asking me a few questions. One thing led to another and next thing you know he tells me that he wants to send me money to help me out.

So I signed into my bank and he sent me $1,800 and said to send $1,200 to someone for medical bills and later on he asks if I wanted an iPhone 11promax.

Of course I said yes and he bought three iPhones under my name with “his money”, and told me to ship the other two too his grand parents because he missed their birthdays or something like that.

Now I tried using the money that was put into my account and it was being declined.

Am I being scammed?

  • 68
    tldr; sadly, yes. (giveaway: when you're asked to give part of what you've been given to somebody else.)
    – user12515
    Jan 24, 2020 at 5:20
  • 53
    "what do I do"? #1 Learn this fundamental rule of life: TANSTAAFL. (Google if you've never heard of it.) #2 File a police report. When they ask you why you fell for this obvious scam, plead youth, naivete and desperation. #3 Show the report to the bank, to try and get your account unfrozen.
    – RonJohn
    Jan 24, 2020 at 6:24
  • 6
    Did you send the $1200 to the someone else? Did the iphones arrive? Did you send any of them on to someone else?
    – Damila
    Jan 24, 2020 at 16:51
  • 2
    @JacobBiel, the answers below have good advice. Would you mind updating your question as the situation unfolds for others to follow and learn from?
    – spuck
    Jan 24, 2020 at 21:54
  • 29
    @eps Being non-subtle, blasting foghorns, that was the point. Read Microsoft's paper on why scammers are blatant. The whole thing - conversation, contact, possibly the giveaway itself - was a funnel to exclude the wise and filter down to people easily manipulated and fooled. Jan 24, 2020 at 22:58

7 Answers 7


Yes, you have been scammed.

Sorry to say, but the red flags indicating it is a scam include almost every word of what you have written:

  • "Give away"
    • Real giveaways are funded by advertising budgets of companies for things like a sample of food at the grocery store to convince people to buy the product. If you can't think of how they are making money out of giving you the thing, then treat that "give away" as a scam.
    • No one ever just gives away money for no reason. They always want something in return.
  • "So I signed in to my bank and he sent me $"
    • This is where you were fooled. They faked this part.
    • They may have also been spying on you from this point forward.
    • There is no reason you need to sign in to your bank for someone to send you money. That is always a scam, unless it's a promotion being run by your bank for showing off their new gizmo in their banking portal, everyone who logs in goes in to a drawing, and the winner gets something of fairly low value from their advertising budget, such as 50% off some bank fees.
    • I'm guessing he was also "helping" you by sharing your computer screen while he did this "transfer" to show you the money "in" your account. They do this by messing with the page content in your web browser. They also might claim they'll make it smaller "for security", that is only so you have trouble seeing them scamming you. This indicates there was never any money that they sent you.
  • If they did connect to your computer to do the transfer and "show" you the "money" that would be another red flag sign to say it is a scam. No one who is sending you money for anything has any reason to see your banking screen, or to see your computer. If someone wants to officially tell you they've sent you money, they'll send you a document saying so, often called remittance advice.
  • "said to send $1,200 to someone"
    • there is no legitimate reason for this to happen. This is the first point where you have lost money.
    • They claimed to have money, and they claimed to be able to send you money. There is no legitimate reason why they couldn't send this themselves.
    • Another common variety of this is them saying "oops I sent too much" and they ask for some "back". Considering they never sent you any, or have the ability to cancel their cheque before it clears, they request a partial refund so you will really send them money when they have sent you none.
  • "medical bills"
    • If they need money for medical bills, they should not be sending it to you.
  • "asks if I wanted an iPhone"
    • Unless they are a salesperson about to sell you an iPhone, or a ticket in a draw to have a small chance to win one, this is another red flag pointing to being a scam.
    • bought three iPhones under my name with “his money”
    • Why did you think at the time he was using "his money"? Was he again sharing your computer screen, showing you the purchase? Did he do another fake money "transfer" to your account so it could be your bank account doing the purchase? All of that is all scam.
    • If someone wants to give you something, they can just give/send it to you. Your bank should not be involved in any way shape or form, unless you are buying it. Even then, they should not be watching your computer while you do this.
  • "told me to ship the other two too his grand parents"
    • This is so he doesn't have to give you his real address, and if there are multiple addresses, so that the authorities have a harder time in tracking him.
  • "Now I tried using the money that was put into my account and it was being declined"
    • This is proof that they never transferred you the money in the first place. That anything that looked like they did was fake.

Sorry to rub salt in to the wound, but the scam may not be over.

  • They may have installed spyware on to your computer while they were "helping" you, to record what you are doing and what your logins are.
    • Try and recall anything you have signed in to using that computer since.
  • They may have collected all of your saved passwords from that computer. Try and list any site that you have saved passwords for on that computer.
  • Even if they didn't install spyware on your computer, they may have recorded your banking login while they were connected.

What to do now:

  1. As RonJohn said, file a police report and tell your bank about what happened.
  2. Have a computer person wipe that computer clean. It is not safe to use until then.
  3. Have that computer person also inspect the rest of your network that computer was connected to, and ask them if the rest of the devices connected need wiping too.
  4. Once you have access to a clean computer and network again, change all of your passwords for every account that computer had a record of, or that you used since they first started this scam. Starting with your email and banking accounts, then the others. Otherwise they may use their access to your email to just change them back using things like the "forgot password" links that send you email for confirmation.
  • 29
    I don't get the impression from OP's account that they fell for phishing. I think someone just did an ACH that bounced after a few days/weeks.
    – ceejayoz
    Jan 24, 2020 at 13:47
  • 26
    Don't wait to change the passwords, but do it from a different computer. Jan 24, 2020 at 17:48
  • 12
    hmm, unless I missed some comments from OP, this seems to assume an account takeover which might have happened, but the story is explained with less assumptions by them using a fake transaction that can be revoked for the initial transaction and them sending e.g. stolen phones they sold on to "their grandparents". But yeah, OP should be able to distinguish which way it was and changing banking passwords and setting up the PC/tablet etc. freshly doesn't hurt either way. Jan 24, 2020 at 21:40
  • 5
    Just to add: the address(es) for his "grandparents" are likely innocent people who thought they bought legit discounted phones, but otherwise have no connection to the scammer.
    – Robert
    Jan 25, 2020 at 10:44
  • 2
    Also before changing any password, check if there's any auto-forward address in your mail account, and if so, remove it (because else they could click on that "this is not me" link you'll receive upon changing password)
    – Rafalon
    Jan 27, 2020 at 8:20

he bought three iPhones under my name with “his money”, and told me to ship the other two too his grand parents because he missed their birthdays or something like that.

He can ship them to you, and Chinese merchants can ship stuff across the ocean... but he can't ship them to his own grandparents.

Am I being scammed?

You know the answer to that. Otherwise, you wouldn't be asking us.

  • 68
    "You know the answer to that" doesn't seem like a super productive answer to a question.
    – Cowthulhu
    Jan 24, 2020 at 22:40
  • I've seen "questions you know the answer to" also called "VCR questions" (warning: linked page is long and rambly) Jan 27, 2020 at 9:22

A criminal is abusing you for money laundering.

The $1800 you received are stolen. You are being used to launder these funds. The $1200 are another account controlled by the scammer. By funneling them through your account, you are making it harder for law enforcement to trace them. Same with the iPhones. They are either bought with stolen money or stolen themselves. By asking you to forward them through the mail, you are breaking the paper trail which allows law enforcement to trace their ownership. They will soon be sold on eBay or by a street vendor and thus be converted to clean money the scammer can use freely.

When the person those $1800 were stolen from reports the fraud, the bank will reverse that transfer. But the $1200 transfer will not be reverted. You will be out of $1200.

  • 16
    I'm convinced this is not money laundering. The purpose of money laundering is to take illegal money and make it look legal (and usually pay taxes on it). That $1200 is just being stolen and they won't be trying to claim it is legal income (because they know full well that its source will eventually report it stolen). Besides, if you want to launder money, it's much easier to get away with it if the helper is in on it. ;)
    – TTT
    Jan 24, 2020 at 20:13
  • 7
    Yeah, if they were laundering the money they'd actually send the $1800 to the mule, since then the mule has their $600 and doesn't go to the police. Jan 24, 2020 at 21:21
  • 4
    @TTT Yes, the term "money laundering" is often used for more general activities. If the initial transfer was not legitimate, then it was straight up scam. If it was a legitimate, "mule" might be a better term than "laundering". The point of laundering is to have a plausible legitimate story for where you got the money, and "some guy wired the money to me" hardly qualifies. Jan 25, 2020 at 1:31
  • Money laundering doesn't solely mean making illegal money look like legal money. It's very definition is "concealing the origins of money obtained illegally". So if someone steals bank account logins and doesn't want to transfer the funds to his own personal bank account but instead uses unsuspecting mules to convert that money into less something traceable (gift cards, Western Union, etc.) then it is a form of money laundering.
    – vsz
    Jan 25, 2020 at 16:19
  • 2
    "I can’t believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We’re looking up money laundering in a dictionary." --Peter
    – Z4-tier
    Jan 25, 2020 at 20:33

So I signed into my bank and he sent me $1,800 and said to send $1,200 to someone for medical bills.

Now I tried using the money that was put into my account and it was being declined.

The scammer stole your $1200. The $1800 was an illusion, only there to trick you into sending the $1200. The transfer was reversed as soon as you sent the $1200. Because the scammer knows how the banking system works -- way better than you do.

I bet the scammer told you a particular way to forward the money, and I bet you did what the scammer said, e.g. doing a Western Union transfer. That way is probably irreversible, but you should really, really try.

Of course the scammer knows you will try, so will have planned for that.

And it's worse than that, because I bet you didn't have $1200 lying around. Now your account is negative. Banks aren't in the loan business, so you need to cover that with the bank right away. PDQ. If you refuse, the bank will close out your account and blacklist you on ChexSystems, which means you won't be opening a bank account anywhere else either.

and later on he asks if I wanted an iPhone 11promax.

Of course I said yes and he bought three iPhones under my name with “his money”, and told me to ship the other two too his grand parents because he missed their birthdays or something like that.

How did this scammer buy them "under your name"? I tried to buy my father an iPhone, and the cell company gave me the third degree - social security numbers, security questions about past homes/cars/employers, ID scan, all that jazz. DID YOU SHARE ALL YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION WITH THE SCAMMER?

If so, you just signed up for 2-year contracts on all those phones. That's about a $5000 commitment you just made there. And then you gave your phones away.

I follow big give aways on Twitter because I am currently in college debt and need money.

This. This. This. This is what got you in all the trouble.

You have a fundamental lack of understanding about how money works. Specifically, you believe there is any such thing as "something for nothing".

And you've spent a lot of your perfectly good and valuable time in the pursuit of "something for nothing". And that's a waste. It would literally be more productive to spend those hours saying "do you want fries with that?" That is very disrespectful to your time.

I'm not saying giveaways don't exist. They do, but they're worthless - they are maybe worth 3 cents of actual value to the consumer, but involve you surrendering to endless sales calls or much worse, as you discovered. Last time I entered a car giveaway (from a legit local dealer I already trade with), turns out, there was no car, and they just wanted me as a sales lead. And this is a legit bricks-and-mortar company!

Giveaways are all scams.

The worse problem is, when you do it on social media, you advertise yourself as a greedy person who expects to get something for nothing.

This guy direct messaged me asking me a few questions. One thing led to another and next thing you know he tells me that he wants to send me money to help me out.

Right. Why did this person start talking to you? The intent all along was to see how naive you were. You brought this on yourself, by being seen on Twitter chasing "big giveaways". It wouldn't surprise me if the "big giveaways" themselves are scams by scammers designed to lure out suckers.

Not just any sucker; one looking for "something for nothing". Admit it. You know perfectly well that money and phones aren't free; they're stolen. If this thing had worked, you would've cheerfully been a willing participant in stealing from "whoever". No such thing as a 'half-way crook'.

The scammer doesn't see anything wrong with stealing from fellow crooks. And the scammer is better at the game.

  • 2
    "... which means you won't be opening a bank account anywhere else either." - That will be a POSITIVE in this case, not a negative. Digital money isn't for everyone. Some people are better off living a cash-only life.
    – Therac
    Jan 25, 2020 at 11:49
  • @Therac Have fun getting paid or paying for many things, depending on your location. I know in NZ your employer is legally required to pay you in cash if you ask, but I don't know anyone who's needed to ask that. Jan 27, 2020 at 9:25

I think the guy sold something on Ebay or Amazon that he doesn't own. Maybe even from a hacked account. The money for it was sent to your bank account (by another victim). Then the guy purchased iPhones with the money from the first fraud and you paid for them with the 1200$. Then you sent two of these iPhones to the guy. He was never after the money.

You need to go to the police immediately. The guy used your bank account and your name and address for multiple frauds, and you tried using the 'stolen' money when you tried to cash it in. If you don't go to the police it can end up very very bad for you.


In addition to the other (correct) answers: contact credit rating agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and lock your credit. At the same time, place a fraud alert with all three and request credit reports. Your scammer might take out cards in your name, since he has your details, or take out bank loans.

Close the bank account immediately and open a new one. Any other accounts that this person interacted with, close.

  • 2
    What kind of "details" do you mean the scammer has that isn't more or less public information?
    – pipe
    Jan 24, 2020 at 23:00
  • 1
    Does he have your bank account numbers? Address? Did you log into a system he pointed you at? We don't know the details of your interactions with the scammer.
    – CarlF
    Jan 25, 2020 at 23:27

Other answers here so far were kind enough of pointing to you the red flags (or rather red arrows), why it's a scam and how it works.

However, depending on the jurisdiction you are, (I assume you are in the US since you talk about college debt), notice that:

You risk criminal prosecution here.

And yes, I know you are the victim, you sound like an honest person who felt prey to such a scheme, but that's the reality of where you are stuck now.

The scam you felt into might be a money mule kind of scheme:

Are you getting some tailored legal advise from a lawyer? That is, you will need more information than what you get from random strangers in forums (like this).

Could you afford to pay for the iPhones with your own money? The faster you react, the better, but don't do anything without asking a lawyer.

  • The OP is/was not a mule, all money actually involved belonged to the OP. The OP’s money was stolen. If the OP was being used as a mule, the OP would not be here complaining of having been ripped off to the tune of $1,200, instead the OP would be at home feeling that the world was a beautiful place where strangers gave away $600 dollars just because, at least until the police knocked down the front door and started being nasty about it.
    – jmoreno
    Jan 25, 2020 at 15:44
  • @jmoreno: yes he was. Notice that he "received" money as he said: " he sent me $1,800" to help him out and to perform some action. This amount was obviously acquired illegally. And he possibly felt the "world was a beautiful place". The whole thing has burst, since he tried to withdraw this money from his bank account. Jan 25, 2020 at 16:46
  • Quoting the OP “I tried using the money that was put into my account and it was being declined”, this means that the money was (a) never really there, it just appeared to be there (pending deposit that never happened) or (b) the scammer had full access to the OPs account but only took what was put in (otherwise the OP would have said “all my money was gone” and not just what the scammer had “given”). I find the later unbelievable, OTOH I totally believe in pending deposits that never complete because the source of funds doesn’t actually exist. No deposit = no illegally acquired funds.
    – jmoreno
    Jan 26, 2020 at 11:06
  • @jmoreno: not being able to use money in an account does not mean "no deposit". It could perfectly be that the source of illegal funds was a fraudulent check or that the owner of the origin raised an alarm. But I understand your point. Maybe it was only about the OP and the con-artist. It remains a scam, but his legal situation is less serious. Answer updated accordingly. Jan 26, 2020 at 23:06

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