This is a very classic scam. The crux is to create the illusion of having sent you money, to motivate you to send money onward to them.
Doing that “straight” isn’t working anymore, so this gang is putting a whole lot of “window dressing” on it, so you feel like a real employee and let your guard down.
The money you send is anonymous and irreversible. After you’ve done this, the money they sent you turns into a pumpkin. E.G. the check bounces after it apparently cleared, the wire transfer is reversed, etc.
But notice how the scam is “scalable” i.e. is designed for a small crew to work on a bunch of victims all at once. Every single “job” they’ve given you is designed to be easy to assign to all the victims at once, or requires very little overhead on their part (e.g. do an ATM search for ATMs in your location).
Let’s go through all the red flags.
Only phone interview
And only phone, never ever Zoom or other videochat? Because they don’t look Italian!
- had legit +34 number that came from Spain/Italy
Let me guess. They always call you. They are spoofing caller-ID. That is so easy to do that I don’t know why they even bother offering Caller ID anymore.
But even then, getting a phone number in any country is as easy as firing up a “Virtual Number” service like Google Voice, which is free.
No background check
Those papers employers normally want, aren’t a background check, they’re to affirm you are a US citizen or invitee (e.g. asylum seeker) whose visa allows employment. Violating is a serious crime, the penalty is so high because some employers make insane amounts of money violating it, and the human rights abuses associated with it are horrible.
It may not be a crime for the job applicant, but it proves you’re dealing with crooks.
By the way, lack of these formalities also means you won’t qualify for unemployment, or to be more precise, an unregistered “job” like this doesn’t toward being employed.
I couldn't find any information on the company- they had a @bussnesname.com email address that I'm assuming not everyone can just get for a few $1000 scams
Domain names are $13/year. Hosting and email are free.
A lot of people think scammers are super small time, like one jackass with a stolen laptop sitting in an Internet cafe. In fact they are serious enterprises, so a $1000 website wouldn’t be a problem.
Further, the “obvious mistakes” you see scammers make, that let you spot them so easily — they do them on purpose to screen out the savvy. That leaves only the gullible. Microsoft Research wrote a very good paper on this.
Not very good at English- If they really are native to Italy I would expect it...
I bet they don’t know a single word of Italian. You could test that lol... by learning a little, and speak a sentence whose meaning turns on a single word, like “the job is going really well”... and substitute a not-well-known Italian word there.
It was a very nice website, professional looking. ... I can not find the HR person or my boss online
Well, first, they’re using common templates. Second, the technical skill to do that is readily found in these poor countries, since many people are well educated but their economy is very poor, e.g. because of economic sanctions.
They don’t want too much data anyway; they don’t want to give you physical addresses you’ll just punch into Google Street View, or social media networks that you might figure out are fake.
I once chased a supposedly 90 year old US-German electronics manufacturer to an apartment in Sunnyvale, a tiny 700sf walk-up flat in Germany (both far too small to even be a marketing department), and a sprawling industrial park in China. Uh huh!
The job description was very copy-pasted and included a "payment option" as if I would like to get payed monthly or bi-weekly- I have never seen the payment option but there was an offer letter so that's something right? The bottom also included a company name with copyright.
Sounds like a whole lot of nothing, but if I were desperate for work, I might choose to see something that isn’t there. That’s what they’re banking on.
The salary was more than I expected... almost 100k.
That’s ludicrous for Italy. For that money they could get 2-3 real human Italians in their own town. If they were in India, Nigeria or other scam hotspots, they could get ten.
So why aren’t they? This makes it exceedingly likely that the salary money is not real. They’re holding it out on the end of a stick for you to chase, but it’s completely fake. There is no money.
The only money in play will be your own, or someone else’s stolen money. Trick someone else into sending you money; you wire the bitcoin onward; the next week the other victim files a complaint, the money is yanked back out of your account, and you’re left holding the bag.
The task that I am given feels like more of a chore, find storage spaces, office equipment, cleaning companies, find hotel quotes... The guy is kind of on me...
This type of scam is called a “Confidence Game” or Con Game. The goal is to increase your level of confidence in the relationship, so they can later ask you to do something you would never do for a stranger.
Yes, it’s a bunch of busy “make-work”. These are all tasks that cost them nothing to ask, and make you do a significant amount of work, so that you feel like a real employee. The purpose is to make the relationship feel normal, to increase your trust. They don’t even care about your work product, and are simply throwing it away.
They are cracking the whip on you, again, to make the employment relationship feel real and legit.
Last one. The bitcoin thing, he asked me to visit 2 ATMs that sell bitcoin but told me to not try to search it because most have expensive charges.
We’ve heard that one before: “Visit Bitcoin ATMs and do nothing”.
Yeah, again, that’s a confidence game, designed to increase trust, and move your comfort zone. Before you would have never approached a Bitcoin ATM, certainly not for Internet strangers... but they make it feel like part of your job... make it seem routine... have you do nothing simply to get you comfortable with interacting with the machine.
And once again, the task they had you do (check fees, was it??) is meaningless make-work; again they throw away your work product. It’s only there as a confidence builder, to make you drop your guard.
He said the company needed bitcoin to pay a company for stands to hold wine in storage. I really can't justify this because it just too weird.
Quite correct, any legit company would cheerfully take money the time-tested way. Again, chiseling away at your skepticism... hoping you will just roll with it.
Also, he keeps saying how important this is and that he is putting his reputation on the line, so it's up to me to follow through.
Actually, it’s your reputation on the line. If their “mistake” overdraws your checking account, the bank will look to you to cover the difference. If you can’t, you’ll be added to a bank blacklist called ChexSystems, and barred for 7 years from holding a checking account at banks that use that blacklist.
But by pressing you about their reputation, they are attempting to fluster you into not thinking about yours.
Please help! I gave them my routing number and account number so they could set up a direct deposit but now he is saying that money will be wired in for my salary and bitcoin.
That was a very, very foolish thing to do, and only goes to show how effective their confidence game is. Now they can do a bunch of bad things with that information, that involve potentially taking your money directly.
Or, it may be a reverse game: the want you to worry, but then, they will choose to do nothing, hoping you’ll start feeling foolish for worrying and then trust them further.
Go straight to your bank and tell them you need to close the checking account right away and get one with a different number. “Because someone got ahold of my info”.
all our remittances will be sent with the marks: "for personal use" only. To avoid any questions from the Tax Department.
OK, so money laundering and tax fraud to boot. Wow. Here’s the problem. This will make you an accomplice because you are participating full knowing.
And they will turn and use that against you; threatening to get you in trouble if you don’t keep complying further, which digs your hole deeper with every iteration. Same scam that creeps work on young girls, “Found your mildly scandalous nude photo, I’ll publish it unless you make me worse photos, repeat, repeat, repeat forever”.