Adventures of a Freelancer: Check Fraud!

There are suspicious people everywhere in the world. Case in point:


There are even more suspicious people on the internet, as I'm sure you know. People who are not normally suspicious suddenly become much more so when their fingers hit the keyboard.

Well, today I'd like to introduce you to my dear friend Matt. Or Joseph. Or John. Or Jacob. I met him on the internet, through a freelancers' site called People Per Hour (PPH). Keep in mind that I have had legitimate jobs through this site, so the site itself is not the perpetrator, although fault is a fickle thing.

Matt-Joseph-John-Jacob (Jingleheimer Smith) was offering a pretty solid job: $1000 for a series of 400 - 500 word articles on food and cuisine. So I applied, offering to write 30 - 40 articles for that amount of money, which would nicely cover the cut that PPH takes from my overall earnings. 


The buyer (who at this point was named Matt) contacted me and said he was interested in my proposal, and could I please email him at So I complied, and sent an email to Joseph which reiterated my initial proposal.

The name difference in the email vs. his profile name was my first hint, but I assumed it was a company, and that Matt was an underling sent to find potential freelancers, while Joseph was the one making the actual decision. 

I received a very friendly reply which provided hints #2, #3, and #4 that this gig was not all it was cracked up to be.

Hint #2: The person corresponding signed the email as John (We are now at Matt-Joseph-John).

Hint #3: Friendly John explained that he would only need 15 articles for $1000, not the 40 that I offered. My mom pointed out during our discussions about this gig, that someone who was in a hurry and just need the articles done, might offer more than they were worth, just for the speed. Maybe, maybe not.

But her theory aligned with his note: 

I will pay you $1000 for it in total, because I want you to do a good job and take ur time to do it and I want to make sure we deal directly to make it work fast. 

He needs someone else to do his writing for him. This much is evident.


Hint #4: He wanted to overnight the check to me before I started doing the work. On what planet could this be beneficial to an employer? 30% maybe, okay, but the full amount? Not only that, but he wanted to work outside PPH, which means that I'm not protected and it's against PPH policy.

Another excerpt:

Pls let me have ur name and address with phone number to send u a check for the payment today by UPS overnight delivery after you have the payment, you can then start  with the articles. The articles will be delivered by E-Mail after completion.

After much deliberation, I sent him my address. I figured that on the chance he was a scammer or a creep, he could find me online pretty easily anyway, especially now that I own property; and, on the chance that he was for real, I'd be $1000 richer. Also, if he was a scammer, I could take the chance to warn other potential PPH writers.

Then he started calling. I think he called 10 times before I emailed him and told him to knock it off and not to send me the check. I had already contacted him through PPH, but apparently he and "Matt" weren't talking any more. 

But the real kicker came in the form of (how much more obviously check fraud can you get?) this: 

I will be on a trip today,Something just came up. I will send u the check  of $4000 out today as well, You are to deduct your charges and you will help me get the rest of the funds to my Publisher to publish the Articles


It's like they're not even trying. I know people get into trouble with check fraud all the time, but it's usually on emotional stuff, right? "I'm sending you this money but, oh crap, my secretary made it out for the wrong amount and do you mind sending me the difference back? I'm so sorry to be an inconvenience, yada, yada" or "My son is in the hospital in the Cayman Islands with severe form of amputation and needs money, could you please wire the difference?" Etc. etc.

But I didn't fall for it. Good for me.

I did get the check though. It looked a little real, except that they used regular copy paper to print it, had it sent from a resort that exists in Belize, but with the address in Colorado. They did match up the routing number for the bank they listed, though, so that was "clever" I suppose. 

So where does "Jacob" come in? you ask.


Right here. On the envelope. It was posted from Buffalo, NY (Not San Francisco where all the phone calls were coming from, or Colorado as the address on the check listed, or Belize like the resort they picked for their "business"), by a person named Jacob. 

It seems like a lot of work for them to go through for a mere $3000, but apparently (according to my 5 minutes of internet research), more and more people are falling for these scams every day.

A report by the National White Collar Crime Center shows that: 

  • According to the National Check Fraud Center, “check fraud and counterfeiting are among the fastest growing problems affecting the nation's financial system, producing estimated annual losses of $10 billion and continues to rise at an alarming rate annually.”
  • According to a report issued by the American Banker, an industry banker’s magazine, “losses from check fraud will grow by 2.5 percent annually in the coming years.”
  • According to a study conducted by Ernst & Young, 500 million checks are forged annually in the U.S., resulting in losses of $10 billion. TEN BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.
  • Recent reports suggest that check washing alone accounts for approximately $815 million lost every year in the United States.

A lot of this fraud is committed is against commercial businesses, but NBC reported that: 

  • According to a survey released Wednesday by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), nearly a third of all adult Americans have been approached with fake check scams and at least 1.3 million have fallen for it.

1.3 million people times my potential $3000 loss comes out to: 3.9 billion dollars (assuming I counted my zeros correctly). Either way, it's a lot of money.

In conclusion, NEVER WIRE MONEY to an unknown entity. ESPECIALLY, if someone sends you money first. It's a scam. 

Now, for all of you who are worried about my personal safety because I got a fake check in the mail and gave some random group of scammers my house address and phone number, don't worry. I called the police and followed their instructions. They said I don't have anything to worry about and to shred the check.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Never wire money. And if anyone emails you from block him.